It’s the little things. When we were first starting out in Chicago, I had a minimum wage job in a bagel shop. In the evenings I played with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, working with renowned conductors and stretching my musical abilities to their limit, but every morning I was back in the shop, making bagel sandwiches and ringing them up on the register. My husband had a similar job down the street, and the disconnect between our goals and our reality absolutely grated on him, but I sort of enjoyed the work. I tried to make nice bagel sandwiches, and to cut them neatly all the way through so they didn’t rip apart in my customers’ hands. I wrapped them tightly and marked their contents tidily on the packages. And every now and then a customer would notice, and would thank me for my excellent work, and I would feel a tiny thrill of pride. I knew it was just bagels, but I was pleased with the job I was doing.
I am playing education concerts this week with the Kalamazoo Symphony, and having a terrific time. We close with the Overture to West Side Story, and at the beginning of the piece it has this weird time signature – 4/4 plus 2/4. In other words, every other measure is a different meter, and the copyist didn’t want to write it out for my convenience. So the second bar, for instance, which looks normal, actually only has 2 beats in it, and the bars after I play start with a 2 and go to a 4 then a 2, etc. Now, I was never in danger of missing an entrance here, because this particular music is IN MY BLOOD, but I admit that the first few run-throughs I kept catching myself counting nonexistent beats or noticing that the baton was not doing the same thing my brain was in those 11 bars of rest. Since I started to pay better attention, I have found it tremendously fun to count through those measures, and I must admit that every time I hit the 3/8 bars exactly with the rest of the orchestra I feel a tiny thrill of pride.
It’s the little things.