(To experience the full effect of this post, listen to the music posted above as you read the text)
The professional musician is cognizant of our business’ hardships. However, our job is unique because we are inherently praised and celebrated by our colleagues and by the general public. We have the respect of not only the most talented and accomplished members of our field but we are also admired by people who claim to “know nothing about music”. The personal rewards we receive from others is one of most satisfying aspects of practicing, performing, and teaching music.
In this week’s post, I would like to refocus our attention on another group of people who I would like to call the “unsung heroes” of our world. They are the men and women who never step on stage, who are never their to receive the wave of applause that follows the music, and who are often forgotten in shuffle. They are logisticians of the details and the real retainers of responsibilities. For this class of workers, there is no one else to ask to “get the job done”. They work behind the scenes and are rarely recognized. Maintenance staff who clean, fix, and run our buildings and concert halls. Administrative workers who organize the impossibly chaotic schedules so that everyone gets their own space at the right time. Young interns who receive little pay but are expected to simultaneously learn their job and execute it properly. The list goes on and on. There is no doubt in my mind that without these people, our music making would come to a screeching halt. Whether it’s a desk clerk who finds an extra room for you at the hotel or the volunteer that tears your ticket stub, no task is too small or insignificant.
This meditation is brought to life by Janos Starker, distinguished cello professor of the Jacobs School of Music. Mr. Starker, who passed away this year at the age of 88, was a magnificent performer of the highest caliber, a dedicated teacher to entire generations of cellists, and a unique character. When I graduated this spring, I stopped in one of the music school’s administrative offices. An assistants told me that for decades, every Friday afternoon, Mr. Starker would make his way down the hallway on his way out of the building, poke his head into their office, and say with his unforgettable smirk, “TGIF”. On one occasion, when he was out of town, he called the office to say “even though I’m not here, I still wanted to wish you a happy Friday”. Mr. Starker was a special individual, not just for his talents, but for a rare charm that was extended beyond his students and equals.
Appreciate is an art of its own. Give thanks to those who serve you in the smallest ways. Their collective efforts, like the stars of the night sky, illuminate our lives in the most spectacular ways day in and day out. If you happen to be one of these individuals, we salute you and the work you do.