I'm sure we all make a point to check out the excellent bog posts over at Inside the Arts - which means, if you haven't...ever...you need to now. Just in case you have been too busy playing Pops Concerts and the 1812 Overture, let me direct you to one I found to be quite excellent: Impressions and Appreciations on Holly Mulcahy's blog. This post wraps up her series in which she reflects and shares wisdom that young musicians need to know and experienced musicians wish they had ingrained sooner.
In her post, Mulcahy poses the question of why we have chosen our careers in the arts - specifically music. I want to take a few minutes to actually answer those questions:
Why does my involvement in music mean anything?
My involvement in music means that I am part of the continuation of a valued and integral aspect of my society's, and generation's, cultural fabric. I am both preserving and creating within an art form that informs and responds to the dynamic nature of the human experience.
What am I contributing to society as an artist/musician?
I am contributing my personal passion for music. This is includes, but is not limited to: the positive affects live music has on a person's development, education, entertainment and cultural awareness.
Am I sincere with my goals as a musician?
Is it worth the personal struggle and sacrifice?
Am I perpetuating the art?
At this point in my career, I feel strongly that, most specifically, my work with the Chinook Winds is expanding the positive perception and scope of wind chamber music and classical music in general.
Am I helping sustain it in the minds of society?
More than sustaining, I feel like we are most often introducing the joy of live classical music. Sadly, we seem unable to sustain the value of music in society because of a generation that now seems to lack a meaningful and positive introduction to it. Baby steps, we will get to sustaining once we have done our due diligence with proper introductions.
Why am I answering the questions Mulcahy posed? Because, as she intimates in her post, we need to be purposeful musicians! I love that she addresses the importance of first impressions and it reminds me of the points I made with my own post about being an effective communicator. The fact is, we all know how much we enjoy what we do but to expand and progress as artist and professionals, we must address why.
I think it is so easy to get lost in the static of work - get in the practice time, make it to rehearsals, take care of the sustenance of private teaching, buy more concert black - that we miss the big picture of what we are doing, why we are doing it, and who that affects.
Be a purposeful artist!
I laughed when Mulcahy mentioned vanity plates since I finally have my dream vanity plates. WHY did I spend money on vanity plates? Because I want every person who drives up behind me to look at that plate and think about a bassoon, the Montana Association of Symphony Orchestras, and their local symphony. Why? So that when they see an advertisement for a symphony concert or chamber music performance, they will think about that plate, maybe chuckle, and then think, "Hmmm, maybe I should check that out. Maybe I will meet the person who owns those plates. I bet they are neat people."
Yes, it's that purposeful!
Be a purposeful artist!
Present yourself and your art in a way that reflects all the training, practice, education, and passion you have invested in it. Take time to write down your own thoughts about why you are engaged in this work. It will probably change over the years and that's great, that is part of your progression. But among the many activities pulling you in too many different directions, always be purposeful and don't get so caught up in the work that you forget the why.