While studying abroad, I had the opportunity to accompany string players in an international competition. The competition’s jurors were famous performers in their own right and held faculty positions at prestigious institutions in the US. During that same week, the concertmaster of a major orchestra in the US came to solo with the local European orchestra. I had previously worked as a studio pianist in this violinist’s studio and was delighted to hear his stunning concerto performance. Catching up over dinner was lovely, but I was also quite taken aback. How could this incredible violinist with such a fabulous reputation and who was at the top of his game be so bent out of shape that he hadn’t been asked to adjudicate for this competition? I could hardly believe that someone of his extraordinary stature would care so much about this not very well-known competition and that the topic would dominate dinner. And yet it made me realize something about musicians and even the best, most accomplished ones: though striving constantly is so essential to “making it” in the classical music world, it doesn’t just stop (and probably shouldn't stop) just because you’ve - by all accounts - “made it”. It is important to one's soul to keep growing.
Recently, I have had some heartfelt conversations with musician friends precipitated by a job opening I read about at a university. I wanted their input, would I even be considered? (Verdict: unclear.) I love my musical life and my students and colleagues but admit that I need to keep evolving and growing to be happy. For one, I would love to perform more and have local colleagues in chamber music. It was pointed out that perhaps this means starting a chamber group myself and creating new opportunities, rather than trying to get others to make space for me in what already exists. I have good organizational skills, after all. I also articulated that starting a summer piano program that my own students could attend would be exciting. Or maybe a pre-college at a nearby university. I also have an idea about empowering young people through workshops in the performing arts and wellness… It was fun and cathartic to talk over these ideas with people who know me well, even though I was embarrassed to talk about the academic job opening knowing that it's probably impossible and a pipedream. I also remembered that dinner, so long ago, with the concertmaster. I hope he later took the initiative and told his colleagues he’d love to work with them. It can be hard to tell people what you need and want, it can be difficult to be vulnerable and possibly rejected, but it's also important to not leave others guessing.
Antonio Machado wrote: Traveler, there is no path. Paths are made by walking.
With gratitude and hope, I put one foot in front of the other and am curious to see where this leads.