It's been a hot minute since I've written a post, and not the New York-type minute! I was really surprised by the response to the last post I wrote about how tough it can be to be a freelancer, and a lot of things have come together in the time since then. I played some big concerts, made some changes in my playing, and met some new musicians. While I've been inspired and engaged on the horn, I've been really disheartened by what's going on in the news.
The musicians of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (OH) are great people and diligent musicians who are committed to working together, which is refreshing and inspiring. They are used to playing big weeks and long programs, and I'm so grateful for the time I got to spend with them. They were warm and extremely welcoming to me in light of the difficult situation they were coming from: they lost their dear Principal Horn player, Gene Standley, much too soon. I could feel the mark he left on all of them, and I'm happy I got to be a part of their wonderful scene. The time I spent there was great, but it was book-ended by the awful shooting incidents of Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs. That really touched me.
This past week, I got to perform in a bunch of small concerts. They were traveling jobs, so I got to spend a lot of time talking with other brass players on the road. The routine was basically the same for all of them: navigate traffic out of New York City, chat about the people we were performing for, and play the concert. After a great performance at the respective events, the drive back started with a hearty discussion of the audience and highlights of what we played as we enjoyed the concert high. The conversation turned to what our lives were like: the things we were playing at the moment: the crazy things we were doing to physically get there, the people we were working for, our goals for the future, and our satisfactions and frustrations of where we were at the present moment. Not to be forgotten, of course, was the news of the week, which were mostly stories of professionals using their power and privilege to bend others to their will. Maybe it's because of the fact that I've been sleeping in 90-minute bursts lately, but I was forming a connection.
The musicians I got to play with this past week are great players and friendly people. They were happy to play the jobs we had while dressed in khaki and red, and they were happy to engage with the many people that thanked us as we were playing. I had that lucky-to-be-alive feeling as I listened to their sounds and matched their musical energy. What a joy it was this past month to play with musicians that were there to play their instruments, and nothing else. And what an absolute tragedy to leave those moments and experience such a dearth of hope in the world we live in. I will admit that I have strong political views, but I think members of either American political party can agree that the things happening in front of us are horrific and need to be fixed. I thought to myself, "how do I experience such joy in my life and take that to make the world a better place?". The best answer I could come up with was that familiar adage that we see on daily our social media feeds: "Be the change you want to see in the world."
In this light, I have decided to take a day each week to feature a freelancer that is living a normal musician life. We've all heard stories of those wonderful people who win a big audition and share their secrets to success, and we applaud them and give them the credit they deserve. This endeavor will be an interview with a musician who is living the normal freelancer's experience and might be successful, or might be a musician having a rough patch, but it will be an honest Polaroid of where they are. It won't be a survey of the people I know: it will be an open call to anyone, living anywhere, that wants their story told. Hopefully they'll want to play a duet with me, if we can make it happen!
These will be the stories that we tell and hear in the drive back from the job. Having worked in many different capacities myself, I know what it's like to play in what many musicians would regard as "wildly successful", and what it's like to live day to day, and hoping all the while that there will be another day that I get to work. When I'm busy I'm fully committed to my craft, but when I have ample breathing room, I find that I have more experiences to come to terms with what my voice is on my instrument, and why I continue to play. We are the bulk of the people working in the industry, and I think we deserved to be celebrated in our own time, not after we embark on a path that redefines who we are. We are directly in touch with our audiences and we have the power to shape the way people see classical music in a hands-on way, on a daily basis. We're working, we're living, and sometimes we're freaking out: we're the Musicians of Now. And we're awesome.
So the next time I inevitably read something crappy in the news, I'm gonna go home and hug my kids, and remember that I too have power in the eyes of musicians who want to be where I am. Then I'll hang out with my husband and wait for him to make me laugh, which he somehow manages to do with his newly-shaven face. And then I'll practice; fiercely and purposefully, so that the next person that hears me grins warmly; smiles enthusiastically; or sits back and basks in the sound of beautiful music. Maybe that person will feel that tomorrow will be better when the world experiences those brief and divine moments from the likes of us, the Musicians of Now. These fleeting moments of bliss mean more to the world at large than we think.