Most of you know that Vonnegut is my favorite author. I've read many of his books, and I'm approaching the halfway mark as far as making my way through all of his works. Late last night I finished "Timequake", which is a semi-autobiographical novel that explores the idea of the world rewinding, forcing every human to relive the last decade of his or her life without the ability to change anything. It's described in the book as a sort of autopilot, or even a real-life play in which the actors are people who can't move off-script. Much of the action takes place directly following the 10-year replay, and how the idea of free will is quite gray. For example, certain physical stimuli force a reciprocal response, like stubbing your toe, or seeing something you find really funny. My good friend, Brandon, used to joke about how musicians who miss notes can't help but to look at the conductor to see if he noticed anything. This is another example of that. We're days away from the year 2015, which is significant in my life. In 2015 I've been an adult (for all intents and purposes) for a decade. When I think about 10 years since graduating high school, I think of my having done everything I was "supposed to do". College comes after high school for many kids, so that's what I did. For musicians training to become professionals, graduate school is typical, so why wouldn't I have done that? Even after leaving USC, the Detroit Symphony Fellowship was the obvious step, followed by my winning a job. So after 10 years of life (which has been very exciting and eventful, mind you), I'm sitting here wondering if all of that can be considered a grand iteration of stubbing my toe – you know, doing something because it’s a natural response to some stimuli. Back in grad school, the idea of not having the next, clear step in front of me was very scary. Before winning the Fellowship I would ask myself, "What if I just sold everything I owned and moved into the jungles of Brazil?" Did I not do that because I wasn't under my own free will, in some subconscious way? Money keeps most of us from doing what we [think we] want to do, so are checking accounts, credit scores, and other various types of debt the rails on the train track we are forced to ride? Can I not play "Daphnes and Chloe" because I'm just not meant to have that level of technical proficiency?
So it goes.
Toward the end of the book, there's a scene in which one character asks another to look up at the stars and pick two. He's to move his eyes between those two points. It's recognized that those two stars are so far away that they probably don't exist anymore (only their residual light traveling to Earth), but that the space between those two points contains the gazer's awareness, or soul in his words. That idea was so beautiful to me. We should think more about our souls and how they, too, have a place in this universe, or whatever this is.
I say "whatever this is" when it comes to the universe because my colleague in Knoxville, Sean, said something to that affect to me in a Christmas card I received yesterday. Our jobs in Knoxville as non-principals/core members leave a sour taste in our mouths sometimes, just like life does in general. Sean, in his card to me, said that having people to share it with makes it tolerable. I really appreciate it when an orchestral colleague recognizes that we’re not sure of why we do what we do, but that going through it with like-minded people gives it a little purpose. This also applies to life, or whatever this is.
Tomorrow is me and Andy's 8-year anniversary, by the way. Our (almost) decade together has been the greatest joy of my life, and certainly everything BUT autopilot.
Christmas is almost upon us, so hopefully you've completed all of your holiday shopping. If you haven't there is still time (with rush delivery, of course)! Often times my friends ask me what I'd like for the holidays, and I never have any idea what to tell them. I mean, who wouldn't love their student loans paid off, or a trip to Europe, right? Unfortunately, things like that are out of the price range of most people, so they have to be more creative. What I always LOVE to receive, though, are thoughtful, bassoon related gifts, so here's a short list of gift ideas for your friends who play bassoon, in case you haven't picked something up for them already (click on the images for more information):
If all else fails, offer your buddy a friendly ear. At the end of the day, we're here to perform and to provide a little bit of joy to people the best way we know how. The best gift is support, so support the arts and support the art your bassoon friends work hard to provide every day! Happy Holidays, everyone!
Ever since I left Memphis in 2010 I've been working hard to get back. Me and my bassoon have seen desert and snow, rain and shine, and multiple coasts at this point, and the idea of playing primarily in the 901 becomes sweeter every day. Last month, that idea became a real-life opportunity - and I turned it down.
Before attempting to convince you (and myself) that I made the right choice, I have to acknowledge a big milestone in my life: my 1-year anniversary with the Knoxville Symphony. It's not just a year of making new friends, becoming a more versatile musician, and playing a real role in sustaining the arts that I celebrate, but also a year of having nothing to prove. As a student (and even the DSO fellow) I often felt like I was constantly competing and proving to people that I deserve to be where I am. Having won an audition and holding a position in a professional orchestra, for me, takes those feelings away, leaving me plenty of mental space to focus on the music and performing with my heart. Now don’t get me wrong – there’s still plenty of competition within the industry itself, but right now I’m choosing to stay out of it. Being the 2nd bassoon of a regional orchestra isn't a job that I'll want to hang on to forever, but for now it's what I want to do and I'm very thankful for it.
So concerning my turning down the chance at a good, decent paying music job in Memphis: As I sat through the interview (that I was very well dressed for and killing, by the way), I began to feel my freedom slipping away. I felt like a bird being lured into a cage with more seed than I'm currently gathering in the woods on my own, so to speak. After a couple days of thought (and getting a few more questions answered by one of the interviewers), I decided to stick with what set me free in the first place. It's still not a decision that I'm 150% confident in yet, but the deed is done and I'm living with it. Andy supports my turn down, as his main concern is my happiness, and I love him even more for that.
I usually try to end my ramblings with a sort of "moral to the story". What's the moral to this story? I think that there's no way of knowing if you're on the right track or not, so you might as well do what makes you happy and figure out the other parts of it in the meantime.
Next blog: "Jolly Ole St. Flick - What to Get Your Bassoon Playing Friend for the Holidays!"