The other night I my nine year old niece left a message on my voicemail. "Auntie Karen, I was just wondering, do you ever get frustrated when you practice your oboe? Because I'm practicing my violin and there's something wrong with my bow and it sounds like a banshee and it's really bad and I just want to throw it out the window."
Yes. I get frustrated. There have been many times I've wanted to throw my oboe. It doesn't help that it's shaped like a javelin and would probably look great flying through a window.
Those feeling of frustration can be demoralizing, i try to put it in the proper context. It's crucial to recognize that the frustration is a sure sign i'm improving. In general I've found that my ears are faster than my body. I develop a concept of how I want something long before I'm able to execute it in my playing.
Figuring out how to get from point a to point b can be a very difficult process. As a professional, I've developed a lot of strategies and techniques to move forward. I've been fortunate to have teachers who have guided me through the process. I still have those frustrating moments, but I'm better equipped to work through them.
I really think thiis is one of the most valuable lessons kids can learn from playing an instrument. Through her violin, my niece is learning that something very challenging can also be very rewarding. She's learning to have patience and that improvment is a long slow process.
A couple of weeks ago, she performed in public by herself for the very first time. She was so excited about it and I could tell that she was really proud of herself. It was a payoff moment. Those moments are what make it all worthwhile.
Dear Young Musician,
I understand how difficult it is when you're coming out of school and trying to find a job. I know what it means to stand in the grocery store and wonder if you can afford that extra packet of Ramen noodles. I realize it's scary to not know when the next gig will come along, how the rent is going to get paid this month, or if you can scrape together the money to take auditions. I get all this because I've been there. Right after college I dove headfirst into the freelance scene and it was really tough. So tough that I may have been tempted by an audition like Louisville's. It seems like a pretty decent deal, good pay, steady work, but trust me...it's a wolf in sheep's clothing. I urge you, DO NOT TAKE THE AUDITION.
Here are a few of my reasons why:
1) Salary- Consider this the bait. $925 plus benefits seems like a decent deal, but this is a board that just fired THE ENTIRE ORCHESTRA. Do you trust them to work with the new musicians to maintain that salary package? What happens when you move your whole life out there, away from family, friends and other work and they suddenly decide they "can't afford" to pay that much.
2) Quality Control- As musicians, we all aspire to be the best we can possibly be. We spend years honing our craft, but I have seen little evidence that the orchestra's board understands or respects that fact. Keep in mind, this is an organization that put out a job advertisement on Craigslist. This fact alone makes me distrustful of their ability to assemble an orchestra that can play at anything approaching a professional standard. When we finish school, we tend to think we've learned what we need to know about playing our instruments. I can tell you from personal experience that it's just the beginning. After you win an audition and join an orchestra you learn an incredible amount from your colleagues. If you really want to reach your potential, you need to draw on their experience and expertise with the repertoire.
3) Personal Marketability- If you're considering this to be your "first job" and that you'll be able to "move on to something bigger" think twice. Having the Louisville Orchestra on your resume is going to be like having a big red flashing neon "Don't Hire Me" sign over your head. Why? By working for them, you are hurting a fellow musician. You have taken someone else's job. The music industry is very small and your reputation is all you have. Don't tarnish it by working for an organization that has garnered the hatred of virtually every professional musician in the country.
Please, respect your colleagues, respect yourself and know that other jobs will come open. The Board of the Louisville Orchestra has proven that they are untrustworthy and do not value the well-being of the orchestra or its musicians. If you win a position you will be walking into a situation that could very well end your career before it has even begun.
Thank you for listening,
Karen Birch Blundell