Wednesday, July 20, 2011

To Quit or Not To Quit

Sometimes I want to quit.  Sometimes other people want me to quit. 
Then I always realize that I should quit.  
But I have to choose carefully what I will quit.    Very carefully.  And I have to think of it well in advance.
Sometimes it is a matter of escaping from a dead end, like quitting a university job that requires hours (days) of commuting for very little money or static orchestral positions.  Sometimes it is a matter of giving up something really wonderful, like teaching passionate talented students at a university for very little money or playing in a beautiful orchestra that never featured me as a soloist.
Other times it is deciding not to be spread so thin that everything falls short of my goals.
Not do I face the obstacles that life puts in the path of every other musician, I have my own particular handicap when it comes to conceptualizing time.  Part of me feels that I can learn 8 concerti, write a book, teach 21 students, have fun on Face Book, pay bills, look after the damned cats, attend birthday parties, concerts ---- all in the 10 minutes before I have to pick up my kid from school.
Those who succeed are the ones who have quit the right things at the right time.
Perseverance is only useful if it is in the quest of the right goal.  
The only leaps in my playing have come when I have been obsessively, eagerly focussed on a particular composer and these obsessions always lead to a recording.   Of course other playing can happen around this point of obsession!  Yet, from the beginning of my career, I have developed crushes on different composers... Telemann, Bach, Corrette, Scarlatti, Lussier, Hummel, Jolivet, Prokofiev and most continuously, by Vivaldi.  
The obsession (preparation, performance & recording) changes my playing forever.
I always try to improve and I will always feel guilty about making this effort.  Because it is not a practical thing.  Husbands get angry, old parents get lonely, kids need dinner, students need teaching.  But to play my best, I have to fail in the commonly-held goal of being a well-rounded human being.  I am a distinctly lop-sided blue-haired human being who is definitely alternating between the knife-edge of now and a rigorously active waiting game that takes place between recordings and performances.
 It is a tiny bit like weight training... in the end, the work that is done at the very end of the very long sessions is the very thing that propels my playing to the next level, but it won’t be apparent until a day of rest and I start anew.
Tonight’s practise was an aerobic session alternating my next recital programme with the recording roster.   Always have to go beyond physical comfort zone to get to the next level of control.
Flight of the Bumble Bee
Vivaldi F Major RV 491
Boismortier - e minor suite for trumpet & bn (from Op 37)
Vivaldi C Major RV 479
Boismortier E minor Sonata Op. 50 #1
Vivaldi G Minor RV 495
Bach/Pagannini x 4(bn/horn duos)
Vivalid C minor RV 480
Schreck Sonata

Here are some words from Seth Godin's excellent little book, "the dip" ---- (Portfolio - the Penguin Group 2007)
All our successes are the same.  All our failures too.
We succeed when we do something remarkable.
We fail when we give up too soon.
We succeed when we are the best in the world at what we
We fail when we get distracted by tasks we don't have the 
guts to quit.

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