Do y’all know how important hobbies are? Because the answer is VERY. When I graduated from Northwestern, I took myself to my own special boot camp with a mentor of mine in Los Angeles. Part of the strength of his teaching lies in his ability to draw analogies from all other areas of his life. He compared facets of his playing to cooking, to tennis, to being Jewish… everything in his life only emphasized his brilliant music making.
Finally one day, probably over teaching me to make latkes, he turned to me and asked, “What are your hobbies, Casey?” He was leading by example, but hadn’t seen me sufficiently keeping up yet.
“Um.” I wracked my brain. My college years – the past two, especially – were devoted entirely to music. To becoming a better musician, and eating, living, sleeping, breathing, and doing NOTHING but music. And I had yet to realize that my greatest struggle at that point to achieving my best musicianship was my failure to develop myself as a PERSON.
As soon as I won my opera job, I very severely instructed myself to get some hobbies. I then instructed myself to invest in them. While they range from the mundane, like crossword puzzles and video games (the latter was a life long hobby I managed to reawaken), I found the most natural hobbies I came across involved the passion that was already in my heart: performing.
Oh yes… when I don’t hold a violin in my hand, I hold a coin belt around my waist. I’m in love with belly dancing. The timing of dancing is astonishing to me – I thought I’d be a natural at feeling the music, but it turns out using your own body as an instrument is very different than holding one in front of you. The passion and positivity of belly dance has really inspired me to constantly rediscover the passion and positivity in my own violin playing.
Plus it’s fun. I could practice snake arms until I keel over.