Yesterday, thanks to the generosity of Chamber Music Northwest, my string quartet [the Arnica Quartet] got the opportunity to get a two-hour coaching with an internationally-renowned chamber musician – Steven Tenenbom of the Orion Quartet and Opus One piano quartet.Â It was a great experience for us to get some high-level feedback on our work up to this point on the Janacek String Quartet No. 2Â ‘Intimate Letters’.
As a professional musician, it’s hard to keep one’s objectivity because one works in a vacuum most of the time.Â Unlike most vocalists, instrumentalists don’t often continue with private lessons or master classes much beyond their school years.Â Life gets busy, one’s ego gets enlarged, and lessons don’t seem like a priority anymore.
But the fact is, getting objective opinions of one’s playing from leaders in the field is vitally important to maintain artistic growth throughout one’s career.
My former (and sometime current) teacher Roberto Diaz, now the president of the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, took lessons with Louis Krasner even as he was in his second gig as a member of the Boston Symphony.
In an interview I conducted with Diaz for The Strad magazine back in 2003, he credited the time he spent taking these lessons with helping him to win prizes in the Naumberg and Munich competitions, and with drastically improving his playing – even though he was already a top violist in a major orchestra.
For me, the chance to go back and take even just one lesson every year or so really gives my playing and morale a kick-start.Â It reminds me of why I went into music, and what my goals for myself before life took over art.
So, to make a long story short, we got our best wishes validated, our butts kicked just a little, and came out of the coaching with big smiles on our faces.
Life is good.