November is traditionally a time of thanksgiving. I’m a fan of gratitude: acknowledging the things you're grateful for can help you nurture a deeper appreciation for them. But one thing I don’t often give thanks for is music.
Partly that’s because of the dailiness of music in my life. Like laundry, cleaning, and obeisance to the almighty dishwasher, practicing is a task that is never, ever done. And because I’m a professional musician and music teacher, music is work, with work’s attendant obligations, anxieties, and financial pressures.
But the truth is I’m deeply grateful for music. For its truth, of course, but also, on a more fine-grained level, for its consequences- all the smaller, but no less valuable, ways in which it has ricocheted through my life. Here are three:
I am thankful for music’s mundanity. I practice every day. The Sisyphean nature of music-making can wear me down. But it can also be profoundly sustaining. I’ve had some difficult moments this year (as in other years) and being able to head into the practice room and knuckle down to the business of pushing the boulder up the hill has been a comforting constant.
I am thankful for my colleagues. Making music with other people, even in a professional context, is personal. At some level, when we play, we play ourselves: not who we want to be or who we pretend to be, but who we truly are on an elemental level. And then we figure out a way to work together. I’m thankful for every colleague who has let me hear their heart.
I’m thankful for my students. Music has allowed me to discover what I’m truly passionate about, and that’s teaching. To learn is an amazing, challenging, and sometimes painful endeavor- and my students inspire me every day with their joy and with their grit.
What gifts has music given you?