My dear readers!
It’s been a while, and for that, I’m truly sorry – especially for disappearing into a hiatus without saying a word. The first half of 2017 was completely taken over by my studies and finishing my degree, and the second half… well, that’s a little bit more complicated. Stick with me, if you would, because that is what today’s blog post is all about. I’ll take you through one of my most eventful years yet, and lay out what’s coming up next. However, for those of you who don’t have the time to spare right now, let me pre-emptively say: The blog is back.
As mentioned above, until mid-July 2017 I was largely preoccupied with my studies. Modules were ending and demanded final exams and projects, several auditions had to be played, I unwittingly injured myself several times (all good now, though it took a good number of physiotherapy sessions), and overall it was quite hectic – my course was a 1-year-intensive instead of the regular two-year one – but also very rewarding. It felt good to have every aspect of my skills as a student and musician properly challenged! I’d not felt that way since my final year of high school.
One of the things that resulted from that mad rush was my project for the Freelance Musician module: a video I made about my podcast. Feel free to watch it below, I really am super proud of it!
Then, of course, there was my final recital at the beginning of June. It’s kind of funny, because I always thought my final Masters recital would be a huge thing, and I would prepare for it as such… but in the end, it almost felt like an afterthought to me, with all the other things I had going on. That isn’t to say that it went badly, though – to the contrary, I’m very happy with my performance. I’m planning to upload the video recording early this year to YouTube, to share it with all of you.
The final, large project I undertook as a student – the last ever and also biggest project I undertook as a student, in fact – was to put together a gig for Cellos from Mars. Yes, that’s right, my dream came true. After putting a recording of my arrangement of Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars?’ on YouTube, I was asked to put together a programme of 45 minutes, containing nothing but arrangements of songs of my choosing for cello ensemble. I said yes, obviously, even though that meant I had to whip up another nine or so arrangements from scratch, find people to play with (the biggest arrangement is for eight cellos and piano), get us all together to rehearse, convince everyone to wear costumes… Honestly, it was the best thing I’ve done in my entire life, and the results were worth all the stress and an additional injury. You can listen to the first song we played during that gig below, and if you click through to my YouTube channel, you’ll find the rest of them there. I truly hope you enjoy it!
The end of July brought with it another highlight of my life as a musician so far – I got to meet and talk to one of my only idols in the classical music industry, Benjamin Zander. I spent as much time as I possibly could (which wasn’t all that much, because I was looking for a new place to stay at the same time) sitting in his conducting masterclass, and I can truly say that I learned so much, even as a passive listener. Not to mention that he is one of the nicest and sincere people I have ever met – but I’ll dedicate another blog post entirely to that experience.
Which brings us to the second half of 2017. I moved out of student halls at the beginning of September, having found a beautiful flat and a lovely flat mate. From there, I had to concentrate on preparing for a trial with an orchestra during October, which was both stressful and extremely exciting. But once that trial was over, I found myself floundering.
And this is what this text is really about.
Up until now, I always knew what was coming next. After elementary school, high school. When I started high school I already knew what I was going to study, so university was going to follow high school as surely as spring follows winter. After my Bachelor’s degree, it would be the Master’s. Then, however, I abandoned one postgrad degree to begin another, in a completely different country. That was the first time I was unsure of what would happened, since for a long time I had no idea whether or not my application for an Associate Studentship had been accepted or not (administrative snafu, nothing terrible). I got a taste of insecurity, of standing at the precipice of a scary big hole.
Now, for the first time in my life, I really don’t know what happens next. Sure, I’ll (hopefully) get a job (eventually). But what? Where? When? How long will I have to wait? My life feels like one huge question mark right now. I know that I am a lot luckier than a lot of other students coming fresh out of college, since, as of right now, I do have a couple of positions in the offing, so I’m not entirely without direction. However, it still is – and it took my a while to really see and admit it – a huge burden to suddenly be free of any and all outside pressure to do stuff.
That sounds paradoxical, doesn’t it. However, that is what it feels like. Nothing is stopping me from staying in bed half the day, and not to practise for a week or two, because there are no regular lessons and classes to prepare for. If I don’t practise for an upcoming gig, that’s my problem, but no one is going to be sending me concerned emails, to remind me of this commitment and that deadline. The only deadlines put to me right now are my own, and it’s so, so easy to disrespect my own authority.
None of that is to say that I’ve sunken into complete chaos and lethargy, of course. I do have to admit though, that the immediate time after my first trial – three weeks of November, in total – when I truly had no concrete plans for the future, threw me into a full-on phase of depression. I slept for ten or more hours every night and still spent my days yawning. I was hardly able to motivate myself to do anything that went beyond the daily necessities of buying groceries, cleaning, and making sure bills were paid on time. Practising was entirely out of the question.
I’m better now. The biggest step was to recognise that I wasn’t, in fact, just being a lazy bum, but that it takes time to adjust to the world of self-responsibility after leaving education – in my case, I’d been in education for the best part of my life (20 years), so that truly was one of the biggest changes in my life that I’d ever experienced. I took the time to take a step back, to re-evaluate my priorities. I made sure to examine my methods of working and being productive, and did my best to adjust them to my new situation (which mostly meant KonMari-ing the hell out of my room in order to create a good workspace, haha!). And now that all that is done, I can confidently say that I am back!
That’s right, I’m officially lifting the hiatus status. The blog is back to regular uploads (though I have yet to decide on a schedule). The podcast will come back at some point as well, though this might take a little while – I’ve had a lot to think about lately when it comes to the environment of classical music, and I would very much like to find a co-host before jumping back into it. Instead of the podcast, I’ll concentrate on my YouTube channel. I’ve got a ton of ideas for videos, and recently acquired a good camera and microphone, so there’s nothing stopping me from getting to work there! I’ll do my best to get a video up there this month still, or during February at the very latest.
But back to the blog. I might shift direction slightly here. A lot has happened in the world during the last year, some of which has directly affected my industry. I feel that my focus has in the past been too narrow, concentrating too much on my own privileged experience, without taking into account other pressing issues such as sexism and racism, which are still very much prevalent in our field of work. I want the classical music industry to be as inclusive as the music itself sets out to be, which means that I can’t stop at those points that don’t affect me, a western Caucasian cis-woman, directly.
Apart from that, I will definitely continue the series of reviewing films to do with music, as well as books! I finally have the time to properly read books again (#blessed), and my local library has a huge section on music and composers. I’m cracking my knuckles just thinking about getting through all that.
Lastly, I’d like to hear from you! What would you like me to write about? Please leave your suggestions and wishes in the comments, I promise I’ll read them all, and as always, I’m more than happy to start discussions as well.
And that’s it from me for now! I’ll be back next week – I’ll aim for Monday – with a new essay, so you better set aside some time with a good cuppa to do some reading. Thank you, as always, for your continued support, and I’m truly looking forward to posting regularly again.
P.S.: Why did I choose to revive the blog today, you may ask? It’s my birthday! 🎈