Ignaz is kicking my butt

I know I shouldn't let Daniel nap on my lap, but it's the only way I get any computer time these days, because lately his favorite time to sleep is when the babysitter's here and I'm not. Grr.

I was in Kansas last weekend, where I was actually invited to play a concert at my old college as part of their teaching academy's tenth anniversary celebration. I was honored to be asked, and for some reason, I was also eager to show the folks there how far I've come as a musician since starting grad school. It's not exactly that I have to prove anything to anybody...well, okay, yeah, I do.

I'm what you might call a late bloomer. It took me a few years of grad school to figure out just where my niche is, for one thing. I started out in pedagogy and solo performance, but realized that practicing alone in a little room five hours a day and then teaching "Yankee Doodle" and "Crazy Clown" to boogery little kids just wasn't for me. Not full-time, anyway. So I got a second masters in Collaborative Piano (that's PC for "accompanying") and liked it so much I kept going for the doctorate.

In addition to all this time in gradual school figuring out just what it is in music that I want to do, it's taken me just as long to build enough technique and confidence to feel like I'm a decent pianist. Not a great pianist, but decent. I think most musicians feel inadequate most of the time, and that's not always a bad thing. It's motivation to practice, for starters. My current teacher once said to me after I played something rather poorly in a lesson, "Susan, I don't get it. You're so competent and independent and together in every other aspect of your life, and yet at the piano, you're still inconsistent." The truth can be harsh, but she was totally right. I said, "I don't know. I guess this is the thing I feel like I need to conquer. This is the thing I have to work the hardest to be good at." And I didn't realize how true that was until I said it.

Don't get me wrong. This isn't just some grueling strive for perfectionism for perfectionism's sake, or to prove once and for all that I'm not a quitter. I am a musician because I love music and I wouldn't feel whole without it. I've also done well enough times by now that I can say with a certain amount of confidence that I don't suck.

But dudes, it's hard.

The performance in Kansas went very, very well. I brought my duet partner, E, from my doctoral recital in October, and we did the exact same program. Despite some exhausting travel issues (our suitcase arrived a whole day after we did, and E arrived a day late because of bad weather in Chicago), we pulled it off. In fact, I would say there were some moments that kicked ass, the Poulenc 2-piano sonata, for instance. I felt good about it, she felt good about it, the audience loved it, and my former teacher was very pleased.

But now I'm home, dealing with a child who's still recovering from all the sleep disruption, and frantically trying to prepare for the next thing: a woodwind/piano competition next weekend. I'm playing with a bassoonist who chose some very difficult music, including an obscure piece by Ignaz Moscheles that's like a piano concerto with a little bassoon sprinkled in for flair. We played it for her studio class yesterday and I managed to mess up just about every scale in the damn thing, and believe me, there are a lot.

This is just how it goes. Up and down. Feeling elated after a good performance, discouraged after a bad one. Wondering if it's ever going to be easy (nope). Occasionally wishing I'd chosen something less emotionally taxing, or at least more straightforward. Like medical school.

Comments

Mrs. Ann said…
WEll, at least no one's life is in your hands. (except for the guy in your lap)
Andre Myers said…
Nice post, Suze. Yeah, it's true we often don't feel up to snuff. . in part I think because we know that, as a fact, there are people out there with better chops than us. It's so weird! Would you tell someone that, just 'cause their skill with the English language isn’t as good as the next person, they have no right to speak? Would we tell them that they have nothing to say? That their voice doesn’t count?

Congrats on the Kansas recital!
Suze said…
very good points, both of you. thanks!
canadahauntsme said…
I cannot top those other comments, so I'll just repeat what you said earlier... BOOGERY! boogery boogery boogery!
Animal said…
As part of my presentation at the SCI Region V conference this past Saturday, I've been going through the Steven Pressfield book "The War of Art". He's perhaps better known as the novelist who wrote "The Legend of Bagger Vance," but in this quasi-self help book he presents a lot of no-B.S. insight into Resistance, and how that works against you. One of my favorite bits is about Resistance and Self-Doubt:

"Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends) "Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?" chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death."

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