As we pass over the year anniversary since the world was flipped upside down in a global pandemic, the need to communicate and express the gambit of our emotions and experiences grows paramount. With many ensembles and venues shuttered, many musicians face a seemingly uncertain season wondering when the next performance will take place or what future seasons and gigs will look like post-pandemic. In a year of lockdowns, social distancing, masked rehearsals, virtual performances and closed concert halls, it can be especially discouraging for some musicians, especially less seasoned students or beginners, to find motivation to practice and hone their craft in a time of relative performance “silence”…musicians, take heart!
Here are a few encouragements to consider as musicians in this season of “waiting” to play and perform out of isolation:
First: Stop and take a moment to PAUSE!
This may seem contradictory at the surface, but it is a powerful thing to pause making or listening to your own sound. Pause for moment, if for only a few minutes a day, to stop the hustle and bustle of life, searching for virtual gigs, or the scrambling in the stresses of life in and out of quarantine. Life certainly bring its host of problems and responsibilities, but we all need a reminder to take a breath and pause - even from playing your music (sacrilege!) – just for a minute! Listen around you. Take a step outside. If possible, go for a stroll, explore nature, take a short walk in the park. Instead of only hammering out notes on your instrument, take a moment to hear the “symphony of sound” around you! Nature, sound, life – everyone is surrounded by a unique palette of sound just waiting to be discovered. Try to simply rest and observe for a moment, not as the performer, but as the audience! Consider spending time in meditation or prayer.
We know that studies show the mental and physical health benefits of pausing, focused breathing and even meditation. Who can’t benefit from a bit of self-care and self-awareness? We may be artists of sound, but our palette is all around us! Consider that great composers not only produce plentiful masterworks – they are often seasoned “students” of sound, listening and observing contemporaries and influences in the world around them before crafting their own unique masterpieces. Similarly, great musical performers are generally masters of musical expression and their style and artistry are often informed by their unique life experiences. Creating and performing music well only comes from understanding how to essentially communicate to others about self and the world through sound and expression - and this is nurtured by first pausing and listening! Try pausing for a moment – you may find a spark of inspiration in what you observe!
Second: Spice it up and EXPLORE something new in music!
After practicing the art of pausing and listening, remember to explore as you create music. Yes, there is value and wisdom in focusing, meticulously practicing specific passages methodically and repeatedly until mastered before moving on, and the countless hours every musician knows is required to perform something masterfully. Pursuing excellence is noble and worthy, however, never at the expense of crushing passion! If you, a colleague or student find yourself “burning out” from endless and mindless repetition, it may be time to try something new to keep the spark of motivation burning. We are not automatons and music is not simply pure logic and repetition of sound. It is an art and expression of the soul!
Search for and discover new music! With the host of audio streaming apps (Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, YouTube Music, Amazon, etc.), there has never been an easier time in history to access to a seemingly infinite library of song to listen to hours on end! Are you used to only playing or singing in a certain genre or style? Challenge yourself to listen to and/or play music outside your box and comfort zone! Many websites (Musescore,