One of the music majors in Cleveland talked excitedly with me this week about the looming big jobs out there as we looked out over the falling snow. We were dreaming, laughing, and serious as we shared our common passion, orchestral music-making. One of us was just finishing, the other just beginning. He could almost taste it success, practicing with the same determination as the scholarship football player conditions himself well ahead of the opening day game at Ohio State. Seeing the field of play, he seemed to be saying: Hey, I can do this! Playing all day is O.K. Life is good. You can't play enough because it is all preparation for the big game. Within two or three years, it's his opening day.
As I reflected on our time together, I remembered the thrill of the challenge, the passion for success, and the determination to be the best. It is long and tough, but a fun ride for sure. But what happens after you get the job? "What then!?" as the grandfather in Peter and the Wolf says.
There are only so many hours we can spend on the stage. How have we been prepared for the rest of the day? We excel on our instruments, but we also must deal with people and many other realities, pleasant and non. The "rest of our lives" often get left in junior high school somewhere, shoved aside and ignored, while we relentlessly pursued our single passion. The finances need to be managed, the house put in order, the soul attended to, our passions kept in check - all the things that didn't seem to matter when we were 20.
I hated the term, "well-rounded". I pictured someone who knew little about everything, and excelled at nothing! No thanks. Looking back however, I would choose a path somewhere between obsessive-compulsive and well-rounded, (but closer to the former). I would try to give the same attention to my non-music life issues. Otherwise I'm in for some unexpected shocks in the first week of the new job.
A respected colleague once said to me, as I visualized greener grass in a different orchestra job, "just remember, wherever you go, there you are!" How true. We bring to each situation all that we are, and all that we are not. Neither the job, the surroundings, nor the people, will change who we are and how we behave.