So we have a concert tonight in Northwest Indiana, and may I say, I am so happy to be getting older. I distinctly remember a time when it would have stressed me out to be playing Daphnis and Chloe, with its 12 pages of awkward solos and WICKED hard technique, or Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, with the fiendishly delicate high solos and scary rhythmic holes to fall into and WICKED hard technique, or the Korngold Violin Concerto with lengthy complex rests to count and nonintuitive exposed entrances – but not now.
If I am not actually playing EVERY note of the Ravel, I’m coming close, and if I don’t hit EVERY one in the moment, at least I know that I can do it in my practice room. I am able to sit back a bit and think about musical choices and tone colors in the solos, instead of merely hoping and praying that the notes will speak. I can enjoy the presentation of our soloist, the excellent Corey Cerovsek, instead of counting with all of my might and all of my conscious mind to get to my next entrance. I can notice the shifting pitch centers in the orchestra instead of always being caught up in them and swept away from reality, and I can make choices to join or to resist when the group rushes or drags against the pulse.
It’s hard to describe just how liberating it is to know that I know what I’m doing. It’s not exactly that I won’t make a mistake or play something out of tune or miss a note – but that it feels like it’s all in perspective. I probably won’t be the sole reason the concert is ruined, and probably the concert won’t be ruined at all but will go just fine. Our rocky dress rehearsal last night doesn’t make me anxious for tonight. It’s great music and we have rehearsed plenty and it will be fun.
I think this is different from being cocky or overconfident. I still know that I suck, and I am always working to improve. But playing in the orchestra? I can do that. Doesn’t matter if it’s hard. I can do that. And that’s a feeling I didn’t have when I was 22.
Everything has gotten easier over the course of nearly twenty years of professional work. I remember being terrified and traumatized by Kodaly’s Dances of Galanta the first time I played it, but last week in South Bend we had simply a blast doing it. The Lutoslawski Concerto for Orchestra, similarly, was a maze of hard notes when I encountered it 12 years ago, but now as a grown-up I can grasp the compositional techniques, the formal structure, and the patterns within the technical passages, and nothing feels as hard.
The fact that my life is overwhelming, with far less time for practice and reflection than I would like, does not take away from the fact that I am MUCH more competent at my job than I used to be, and it’s a great feeling. I love my life.
Northwest Indiana Symphony Concert tonight! Details HERE.