I believe in being idealistic and optimistic and pursuing musical ambition that is devoid of cynicism and steers clear of any delusions about “reality” —- after all, what kind of reality is it that imagines a standard orchestral audition to be a true indication of a musician’s ability?
I believe in the enormous kindness of the many musicians who have helped me and these are the people I want to emulate.Yet, I have always been propelled and motivated and shot to the next level of development by the ponderous, culture-induced pragmatism of some of the influential teachers, authority figures and fellow musicians in my past. Without these discouraging incidents, I may never have continued as single-mindedly.
My wonderful Dad did not like it when I first begged for bassoon lessons. We lived far from town, off the grid, and getting a bassoon lesson meant flying 500 miles to Vancouver. In those days, there was one flight per day, so it was a long trip and I had no place to stay Vancouver. I did it anyway, taking lessons with a bitter old man who charged me a lot and was not encouraging. My Dad argued that my obsession with music was an escape from “reality” yet when I persisted, he became my greatest supporter.
My first wonderful bassoon teacher (so inspiring, so motivating) stated categorically that I would not have a career in music because I was too “sensitive.” At the moment, I appear to have had a long career in music but would I have had it without being infuriated by this inspiring yet pompous man? Or did he actually do this on purpose, knowing that such a statement would provoke me to succeed? We’ll never know for sure.
When I landed my first orchestral job, the superb principal bassoonist baffled me by saying that the second bassoonist should never offer musical opinions. To this day I refuse to acknowledge what he was talking about (though I did learn to fly under the radar, however briefly).. I will always see music as a collaborative event and not a factory production with foremen and underlings. Yet this annoying and gifted man also gave me my first solo opportunities with orchestra, letting me play the Mozart Concerto when he was acting as guest conductor. I will always be grateful to him even as I hate him a bit for cutting off my (excellent) ideas.
In the same orchestra, the associate principal bassoonist stated categorically that second bassoonists should never appear as soloists and he would not speak to me for over a year after my first solo appearances with our orchestra. This was the same man who introduced me to the concept of historical instrument practise and loaned me recordings of historical bassoon soloists.
Inspiration can be painful and it can come in forms that do not have anything to do with the feel-good transcendency that I prefer.