Music Buffet

I was fortuitous in my music education that I was matched up with many teachers who happened to be exactly what I needed. As I approach the 10th anniversary of receiving my masters degree (side note: wow), I find myself thinking back to several distinct lessons from my past. Most musicians will do this from time to time, with results ranging from mild nostalgia to the strangest of anxiety dreams. But one lesson from my undergraduate degree keeps popping up in my mind over and over.

My beloved instructor pointed out that I had a problem. It was a lovely problem, but still a problem. “A music career is like a buffet,” he pointed out. “You can look at it with the empty plate right now, and see all the options in front of you. Orchestral performance, chamber music, private teaching, classroom teaching, conducting, academia… and they’re all very attractive choices, but the truth is that you can’t eat the entire buffet.”

I’ve wrestled with this last supposition. On the one hand, I found this instructor to be correct on nearly everything he’s ever told me. In fact, many a time I’ll end a lesson only to realize that I’ve almost taught a particular lesson to a student of mine word for word. His nurturing quality and balance of technical and musical prowess is exactly what I needed at the time. However, I’ve rejected the notion that “you can’t have it all” several times in my life. And while my goals and dreams have evolved and changed throughout my career, I have had at least a little sampling from everything I’ve wanted to eat at the buffet so far. That’s probably more a result of luck than hard work, but both play a part. Wanting to explore the full potential of my field is important, but not being able to see everything it has to offer is far more frightening.

It’s a serious back-and-forth. There’s no way to be the best at any one thing, but I can be pretty darn good at a lot of things. My goals may change, but I like the plates that are spinning at the moment.

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