miscellaneous music the orchestra world viola

how are you doing?

It’s been quiet here at the blog since the flurry of activity a few weeks ago. The big shock of being unemployed has worn off, and now I’m in the process of figuring out what the new normal might end up being, both for myself and the industry I work in. [Just a warning: this entry has quite a bit of navel-gazing in it. If that’s not your bag, I won’t think less of you for moving on to something else.]

There was an aftershock, of course, to that first big announcement a few days ago, when my employer announced that the remainder of our season would be canceled or postponed. The two days after that news came out were pretty low for me. I hadn’t realized the level of hope that I’d been secretly stashing away for a week or two of giving concerts in late May and early June.

The weeks since our season effectively ended have been full of paperwork and phone queues. Unemployment applications, talking to our mortgage company about options for lessening that burden. Figuring out when to go to the grocery store, and how to get hold of toilet paper and other hoard-able items. Early on, there were a couple of streaming sessions that I did for the Metropolitan Youth Symphony and artslandia, which involved a bit of cram practicing. Since then, the desire and/or compulsion to play has ebbed.

I did find a period of time last weekend where I just took out the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin (arranged for viola) and plowed through the first two sets of movements. No worrying about evaluating how I sounded, or whether I would ever play them in public, or even work them up to a reasonable standard for my own pleasure. Just playing through some of the greatest music ever written for a stringed instrument, enjoying the act of creation and the physical action of playing an instrument that has arguably been an extension of my body for over 40 years now.

I’ve been watching colleagues across the country doing so many projects online. Streaming a movement of Bach a day is one such, there are others, including taking requests for custom arrangements that would be performed, doing online masterclasses and lessons, and ‘appointment viewing’ style live-streamed recitals.

It’s all admirable, but it’s also something I don’t feel moved to do myself. At some point down the road, maybe I’ll be ready. But for now I’m still taking time to figure some things out. As a long time, and very astute friend of mine told me yesterday, my relationship with the viola is ‘complicated’. As an adoptee and diagnosed clinically depressed person, I’ve got issues around self-worth and how that sense of worth is tied closely to the act of making music.

When I think about everything I’ve done, in retrospect, I don’t think I’ve ever done a single musical thing just for me. It’s always been for or about others, or how they perceive me. I’ve long said that this blog has been a source of professional therapy for me, for what it’s worth, but in nearly 30 years of being a professional musician, I’ve never taken the time to really think about why I do what I do – and to ask myself the question that underlies all of it:

Do I love what I do?

Amazing, isn’t it? And it’s not a question that I can honestly answer right at this moment. I know that there have been times when I’ve deeply loved what I do, and also been in despair over ever finding that love again. So now I have time. Time to think about music and my relationship to it. Time to consider how best to reconnect with the process of making music myself. Time to think about the why, rather than just the how.

So, how are you doing?

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