Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Trumpet or the Trumpeter?

I saw a quote somewhere recently to the effect that you wrestle with the trumpet all of your life. Often you win, maybe most of the time, but at the end of your days, the trumpet wins. Rather a pessimistic view, but true. I wonder if actually the wrestling match was never really with the trumpet at all. Maybe the real contest was the trumpeter wrestling with himself.

My dad being the perfectionist that he was, always stressed over getting it just right. He was very good at anything he set his mind to do. He was the best. My brother and I didn't realize it, but we inherited much of that "it just has to be perfect or it's no good" mentality. In looking back I see that he was more valuable than the wonderful work he did. He wrestled all of his life, and in the end, his work beat him. Is our worth so linked to our performance that people don't matter, including ourselves?

It becomes written on our faces that we're not good enough, it must be better! Musicians inevitably become way too self-absorbed, focused solely on perfection. It just isn't possible and it isn't going to happen. We vacillate between pride and inferiority measuring ourselves against each other in perpetual insecurity. Something is wrong with our picture. Life is bigger than our stage. Our long-term influence is more important than our short-term note-making.

We must give ourselves wholly to our work, and an honest work ethic is a must. But what will be more remembered, you or your playing? Music is a job to be done well and enjoyed, but not obsessed over. When it's all over, the trumpets will be sold, and all that's left will be the trumpet player. And no longer a trumpet player, only the person.

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