A message for a struggling musician

“Nothing is lost in translation.” Hearing this message changed my life. At the time I was suffering from not being able to get beyond Twinkle with my public school students and not having enough time to do the amount of performing I did while free-lancing in Boston. I was loosing confidence in the life decisions I had made, feeling like I had sold myself out for more financial security. I had also witnessed this same frustration among my symphony colleagues. Knowing how talented they are, I could see how they wrestled with performing less than well executed orchestral pieces. More about how I received this message later in this post.

In our youth, we classical violinists spend hours, days and years perfecting our art. In music school we are required to study and successfully perform the most technically challenging repertoire. We are mostly cut off from the general population at this time. Therefore, other violinists become our whole world. It is traumatizing for those of us who do not immediately become employed in a top level orchestra or are among the even smaller group of competition winners who end up pursuing solo careers when we start our lives outside of school and seek employment. There is a huge canyon between what we achieved in music school and what we end up playing and teaching upon graduation. 

Many musicians decide they cannot handle the reversal of artistic fortune and move on to pursue other careers. They may join the ranks of high level amateur musicians or perhaps earn a lot of money and then return to music at some later point in time. Those of us who persevere in the music world also have to find a way to deal with the grief of giving up our hopes and dreams. Although fulfilling emotionally and somewhat financially, teaching involves long hours and having to work with students who don’t practice, may be pushed into lessons by a parent, or who are just incredibly untalented. Having testified to all of this, since the pandemic, the job has really changed. It has become something much closer to social work. I’m not complaining because we all need this right now. For myself, it has breathed new inspiration into my teaching practice.

There is also the experience of being over rehearsed and under prepared when performing. I have written in several posts about the financial and cultural struggle of classical music institutions. As a section violin player, I am at the whim of the music director. He or she will overlook my need for artistic fulfillment. My function in the orchestra is more akin to a machine part. I am like a keypad, spring, reed or bow hair that is being manipulated by the conductor. Conductors rarely seem to be aware of the need for musical fulfillment of individual players. It makes sense because the orchestral matrix would quickly devolve if the director catered to the needs of each of the individual 85 plus musicians in the ensemble. As an orchestral musician, it is my job to play my part to the best of my ability and follow the musical inclinations of the person on the podium.

A very long time ago, I met Moriah Marston, a woman who dedicated her life to helping very sensitive individuals to fulfill their deepest dreams and longings. Moriah was not only a counselor but also a channel for the Tibetan ascended master Djwal Khul. During one of my sessions with Moriah when I was particularly frustrated about the life I had cut out for myself, she suddenly relayed the Tibetan’s message for me that “nothing is lost in translation.” The message here was that all of my creativity, love, artistry and musicianship really was reaching its intended target. I actually was, all along, expressing my artistry at its deepest levels. Like Dorothy’s ruby slippers, I had the answer all along.

It was an epiphany for me. I became more willing to accept what was happening in my life. I attached new meaning to everything I did. I understood that Twinkle definitely was not unaccompanied Bach, Paganini or a Beethoven string quartet but I was still fully expressing my musicianship. I also understood that although I loved playing in a symphony orchestra and I enjoyed playing with my colleagues, musically it was not the be-all-end-all for me. I knew it was time to find other musical and artistic outlets that were separate from what I was doing for financial gain. The message on this card has not been the answer to every issue I encounter but has definitely calmed the deep-seated angst and grief surrounding not being able to play whatever I want whenever I want.

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