One of my greatest fears is to become an arts administrator at the cost of actually making music. My solution so far has been to constantly strive to improve myself as a musician by setting musical goals (memorize several French pieces for clarinet, for instance). With all the non-musical stuff we have to do, take the time to express yourself via whatever art form you choose. Be an artist by spending time on artistry.
Beginning can be difficult. Figuring out the first steps. Raising money. Asking the right questions. Deciding to quit or terminate a project can be even more difficult. The resources you did raise. The people. The connections. What do you do with them? How do you know when to quit? Difficult to say. But we can act, move deliberately, make a decision. Whether or however one might decide right or wrong, good or bad decisions, there’s more learning in making choices and doing things than in having them made. You can make different choices in the future. The world-that-happens might make choices, but it’s up to you to do the learning.
Sometimes being the villain is unavoidable. Maybe you make a decision that hurts another emotionally or acts against their interest. You probably don’t want to do this, but the circumstances have led you to this position. With all the anger and even hatred, the best response is compassion and understanding. Their anger is rational, their hatred a culmination of complex feelings. Take in these feelings, combine them with your own, and make music accurate to your life in all its complexities. Maybe these are the times when we need music most.
Who do you want to reach? Who is your audience? Who wants you? Who needs you? What can you offer them? How does your ensemble fit into their lives? What do you uniquely offer them? What do they offer you (besides money)? How does serving your audience make the world a better place?
As a founder, you can pick partners who align with your vision, those who have skills you don’t have, those who can push you and your ensemble to be the best it can--or you can choose people who drain and diffuse energy through drama, not buying into the vision, or making it about them. Choose wisely.
Sometimes it might be helpful to think about the kind of person we want to be, and then make decisions from that perspective. Even if we aren’t who we want to be yet, we can imagine what it would be like to be that person and then choose behaviors that align with that ideal. Even if we aren’t bold, we can make bold choices. Even if we’re not kind, we can make decisions that treat people kindly. What kind of a person do you want to be?
As I have continued to spend more time on Japanese and clarinet once again, I've wondered--why not just give it up? Why do I keep coming back? I scrolled past something that defined grit as a commitment to a long term goal. I am leery of labeling myself gritty, but it made me wonder: perhaps it's the residue of what happens when you give up finding the muse (or whatever) in the immediate future and realize that you probably won’t encounter it for a long time. You know you'll encounter it someday, if only you keep searching, working, whatever. Perhaps as you orient yourself towards a process, a sense of resignation comes with it: this is it--this is what I do. I think it’s the same feeling when you start working on a concerto: this is going to take a long time--settle in. And, for me, I become more matter-of-fact and less reactive to random troubles, instead seeing them as merely passing issues. A lot of things, you quit. For a few things, you keep coming back. Why?
It can be easy to get distracted by all the glitz, the appeals, the whispers that you can do things more quickly or with less effort if you only buy x service or product. Do your research and perhaps you can save some time or engage expertise you totally lack. But nothing can replace having your nose on the grindstone, sending personalized emails, doing research, or even making a few phone calls. Sometimes concentrated work is the most efficient way to do something.
Failing is like face planting in the mud. You fall, you must push yourself up against the suction from the mud, go clean yourself up, and then get back to work. It’s important to take the time to process, to think about how you ended up in the mud. Yet you also have to get back to work, to what is important to you. You can only stay in the shower for so long.
We’ve all done it. We play through all or part of one of what we will perform. We’re relaxed, we’re concentrated, and even perhaps just seeing how things go. We nail--we play it beautifully. And then we tell ourselves, “next time is for real.” We walk out on stage, tell ourselves “this time is for real,” and then get into our heads and mess it up. For this reason, I never play something all the way through right before a performance. I want to avoid “now is for real syndrome."