“The days are long but the years fly by.” This statement captures how attention influences our perception of the passage of time. Nothing demands your attention quite like juggling multiple endeavors. You keep your eyes on your commitments as they rise and fall and you hope that you don’t drop the ball. I admit, writing on my blog this spring was a ball I dropped and didn’t bother to pick back up until now.
The main endeavors of the spring semester were preparing for my first doctoral degree recital and my coursework at the University of Oklahoma. However, other avenues outside the school of music opened up. I’ve been playing at a church in Oklahoma City. I visited schools to promote our Summer Cello Club at the Norman School for Strings. I subbed with the Fort Smith Symphony and I will return next season. Good fortune has grown my studio from three students to now having five violin students and four cello students. In August, I will return to Northern Michigan to deliver a lecture on Hildegard von Bingen for the Bay View Association's Scarrow Lecture Series.
Lately, I've been pondering this mad juggling act. When I first started my musical studies seven years ago, I was ignorant in two ways. First, I didn’t understand that studying music and having a career in music would be so multifaceted. Solo, chamber, orchestra. Core repertoire, early music, new music. Pedagogy, instruction, teaching how to teach. Free lance, gigs, personal projects. Research, papers/lectures, discourse. Personal development, interpersonal relationships, and the building of community. The list goes on. Second, I was unaware of the limiting factors of time, focus, and energy. There are only so many hours of the day that you can devote your best attention to complex tasks. When I was younger, I don’t think that I had more energy. I simply ignored how tired or burned out I was.
I just finished my second year as an assistant at the Interlochen High School Cello Institute and while I was there I began to notice how the faculty all were experienced "jugglers". So Thursday, when we did a Q&A with the faculty, my former teacher Crispin Campbell of the Interlochen Arts Academy, Dr. John Marshall of the University of East Washington Spokane, Astrid Schween, cellist of the Julliard Quartet (absent from the Q&A due to travel for an upcoming performance), and special guest Mark Summer, former cellist of the Turtle Island String Quartet, I made a point of asking the faculty, "how many different hats do you wear?"
Cris: Teacher. Quartet cellist. Orchestra cellist. Band member. Recording artist. Artistic director. Institute director.
Dr. John Marshall: Professor. Performer. Music technology teacher. Humanities instructor. Arranger. Conductor. Orchestra Principal.
Mark: Quartet cellist. Composer. Arranger. Improviser. PR. Clinician. Orchestra musician.
This is by no means a comprehensive list but it illustrates the diversity of skills that a successful professional can have. Perhaps versatility is simply a matter of self-preservation. The more ways you can make yourself useful, and sometimes indispensable, the more roots you put down and the deeper your roots reach. I would also propose that the multiplicity of music lends itself to making connections beyond one skill-set. Yes, practice and play the cello. But how do you, your cello, and your cello playing relate to the rest of the world and the people that inhabit it? I would also guess that this is why Interlochen seems to be a good fit for all of us. It is community built around sharing the individual excellence of artistic disciplines.
I look forward to returning to Norman and to continue this crazy juggling act there with my own students. Updates about the Cello Club coming soon.