This started as a FB response to an excellent musician who is a friend of mine, and a bit discouraged. As it grew too long for that, I thought of all the other working musicians I know, including S, who I have written about here.
For the working musicians among us (and especially to Kelly):
OK Kelly, I was just playing before. Now you’ve got me going (Besides, this cough has turned me into an insomniac night owl too).
Of course you’ll be fine. No, there’s no need to worry. Damn straight you’re exhausted, but how is that so different from your “normal” times? whatever that means. As for being weird, as a cop-out, I don’t buy it. As a somewhat pleasant descriptor, yes you are.
Honestly Kelly, I get it. I’ve spent the last 30 years married to a musician (are you ALL weird?) who could have written your note herself many times. She is a very good classical pianist who plays Mozart with more music than most pianists, has served a few churches, done a very little accompanying (which she hates!) played the round of nursing homes and community events, and tried mainly to keep an income through teaching. Though she is a FAR better teacher than anyone I was ever exposed to in my 20 years of being the promising student who wouldn’t practice, that income ranges from barely OK to scraping by, and currently not that. In performance, people don’t understand that they don’t pay for the 15 minutes you sing (or play), or even the 90 minutes you are en venue. They are paying for the hundreds of hours in a practice room, or the countless hours learning repertoire so that you can just “do it” off the cuff and seemingly without preparation or notice, as if it were the easiest and most natural thing in the world. Why shouldn’t you do it for free?
I remember every few years the laments of “why should I…” concerning especially keeping up a Beethoven Sonata, or Bach’s French Suite. As you know, once you’ve mastered it, it doesn’t “stay mastered” You have to keep it up. Why, if no one is going to hear it? Kelly, its because you can.
Aside from the joy in the Music (in a particularly dark spot, I heard some Handel piano on KUHF, found the score and brought it home, S was in heaven again for months!) there is your role as keeper of the flame. Without you, it dies. Without S “keeping it up” it dies. And the light which departs humanity is not metaphorical. It is the real living flame of our species, probably the only truly good thing our species has added to this universe.
I know this is way too long for a FaceBook post, and so far, I have not told you anything you do not know. But Kelly, that is my point. You DO know all this, far better than I do. I’m like the drummer in the joke –trying to find a way to hang around musicians who all told me to “Beat it!” But in times of disillusionment, I want you to remember that in the accounts of human endeavor, you are the Real Deal.
I wish it did a better job of keeping body and soul together, and that it provided the social appreciation it merits (But then, I wouldn’t want you identifying ‘too’ closely with Christina Aguilera!) As you know all too well, your experience is the same as the vast majority of even the greats. When they were appreciated at all, it was as court “hangers-on” and such. You are in good company, not that it does anything about the electric bill!
Kelly, you, and all the other “working musicians” trying to hang on to life by their art, are to my mind some of the heroes of this world. You give up a lot to preserve that which it would kill you to give up. It is, not just a beauty, but a truth and force for the Real and good which is currently in decline in this sorry world. Of course you are exhausted from fighting what seems a losing battle. But it is not. As long as the love is transmitted to such as I, and the true knowledge to those who have the capacity, this one real and authentic good thing humanity has ever done will prevail.
Some of us thank you, and all “working musicians” now; but I believe that there will be a day when the source and inventor of all true music takes you by the hand and says “Kelly, I thank you.”