It's been over a year since I last posted here. Several illnesses and long recoveries were partly responsible. And while I was able to work as principal clarinetist of the Columbus Symphony and teach a few private students, I had little energy to create posts here. However, the real reason may have been a "crisis of identity".
We all go through constant revisions of our self-identity throughout our lives. Joseph Campbell, the renowned mythologist, summed up a lifetime of work, distilling the evolution of identity, in what he called "The Hero's Journey", a series of inner and outer events that shape who we are as we journey through life. The word "Hero" refers to the inner "best person we can be".
The hero inside me had faltered, not surprisingly, along with my bodily ailments. And in the past few years, I've gone through steps 8 and 9 of the circle shown above. Why was I writing and posting videos here? What was my goal? What were my expectations? The clarinet world, and the larger classical music world, had grown even more competitive, with more top level performers posted professionally produced videos, and with organizations such as NPR posting well written and relevant daily articles on the state of classical music.
Now that I am beginning to feel more myself physically, I'd like to reintroduce my goals for this blog:
- convey the inner workings and experiences of a professional classical orchestral clarinetist with wit and candor;
- pass on educational insights of wisdom hard-won throughout a long career;
- attempt to unlock some of the mysteries of how and why great music draws so many into it's fantastical inner world.
I have been humbled by the very real limitations of my body and mind as I continue through the second half of my life as a musician. And while the daunting pressures of a performance career never change, I seek to transcend those burdens with a spirit buoyed by love for the "sport" of playing well with a "team" of other hard working musicians.
Now, please allow me revisit the most important basic lesson I keep returning to- the skill of "self-poise".
The critical foundation of self-poise cannot be overstated enough. The best tool for learning effective self-poise is the Alexander Technique, a method of physical and mental "rebooting", which I guarantee will produce surprisingly positive results.
However, like any other tool, it is only as effective as it's owners willingness to employ it properly and ongoing. The gist of it is this: we all tend to mis-use our "self" (a single unit of mind/body) by placing goals over process. The only way around the problem is to learn to control mind/body by coming into the present, by being "in the room" and by remaining so in the process of practicing and performing, not simply striving for the goal of playing well.
This may seem like pat and commonplace advice, and it is! But is is almost never employed continuously, since most of us think the only way to succeed is to practice harder rather than practicing from a position of mental and physical poise. I will continue to elucidate this fundamental truth in my posts here.
In the meantime, may I refer you to several previous posts on this subject.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all. See you again soon!