Artist or Musician?
At the risk of an oversimplification: Artists create and lead, musicians execute and follow.
Art is about nourishing a unique vision, developing a creative imagination, the courage to persevere in the face of apathy, and craft. All the while keeping the Zeitgeist front and centre. And hustle, lots and lots of hustle.
Being a musician is about skill, teamwork, employability, gear, more skill, and the willingness to serve.
The training does share some similarities, but the outlook is completely different. Artists are often mavericks, employable musicians are always team players.
Let's play a game. Make a list of 10 musical adventures that would inspire you to get busy, get moving, and stay at it. Then pick one from the list and get going.
My 86 year old father just signed up for cello lessons, the first since high school. They are going well. He can barely speak of anything else. He called up the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and asked for a recommendation. He got one.
My wife, who will be retired when this is published, just completed her first violin exam at the Royal Conservatory of Music. It was a big success. She could barely wait to start the next level. See this link for a full description. My first violin exam - David Story Online Toronto Piano Teacher .
In the reality series "Travels With My Father, "daddy" is 80 and he's game.
So, if you are healthy enough to move, get moving I say.
I'm off to practice,
Meaning a Life. Shortly after the book appeared, the poet Michael Heller praised its sensibility in the New York Times Book Review: it “has that rarest of qualities in an autobiography, a story of lives refusing to be victimized by experience."
Easy for me to promote. I've a job, my health, my ability to still play, my social circles of musical colleagues, my hopes and dreams.
Regardless of those "privileges", we are ageing musicians. The circle of opportunity is closing. It's difficult to renew our fan base when our cohort is slowing dwindling and to potential younger fans we look like their dads or worse, granddads.
We Boomers are going out swingin', rockin', poppin' scrappin', and tootin'. No stopping us.
What have we overcome to keep playing?
(I've compiled this list from the experiences of my students, jamming colleagues, and jazz camp buddies.)
I'm going to go and practice.
"I dwell in possibility" Emily Dickinson
Good question. Over the last decade I've been to jazz camps, jazz workshops, and jazz conventions in Canada, USA, Italy, and Poland, All of them were unforgettable experiences.
The thought of being in a small enclosed space with a bunch of senior citizens and college age kids is a non-starter for me. Hanging out on Bourbon street on a Saturday night taking in the all sights seems like a distant hope. Jamming in the French Quarter or a New York basement just sounds dangerous.
Even when a vaccine arrives this thing is not going to be over if lots of folks refuse to take it. Herd immunity will take longer if a significant portion of the population refuse it.
If we want to return to our former life as musicians we must support and follow all the health directives. And, encourage others as well.
In the meantime stay safe, be smart, work out, network daily, encourage your discouraged friends, hug your spouse, and practice like mad.
Repertoire, repertoire, repertoire.
Learning to practice healthily
This week I had the pleasure of advising a student on how to prepare for post-secondary studies in music.
He asked me about practicing at the Olympic level, so to speak. I practiced, age 43 for 4 years and logged about 5000 hours. I completed my Grade 10 and ARCT, the highest levels of classical piano, at the time, offered by the Royal Conservatory of Music. I currently spend one to two hours a day on the drums. The big ambition of my aging years. So, I know something about practicing.
We start with warnings: Injury from over practice and neglecting physical fitness. If you are an aging professional musician, you’ve likely had some firsthand experience with pain or worse.
The real reason musicians are dropping out of music schools | CBC Music
Still Battling an Illness, Jarrett Ends His Silence - The New York Times (nytimes.com)
Steps before practice:
Steps on the bench
Away from the bench
End of 1st lecture. To be continued next week.
David Story: Professional pianist, drummer, composer, and educator. Well into his 5th enthusiastic musical decade, David works with adults pursuing musical dreams in the autumn of life, while he maintains an active presence in the Toronto arts scene.