My magical, musical journey: Part 7 – Am I still a musician?

By Ande Jacobson

Music is an important part of my life even in our pandemic riddled world. I’ve been partaking privately, safely sequestered at home as I listen to music daily or play solo for my own amusement. As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, I’ve embraced a change that I couldn’t have imagined even just two years ago. As my local theater and music community begins to blossom again, I’ve watched from a distance. Over the summer, I reviewed a production remotely, streamed from the comfort of my den. Unlike the majority of my theatrical and musical colleagues who are racing back to rehearsals and performances as fast as they can, I am not yet willing to return to live performances in person on either side of the lights. At this point, I am not sure if I ever will return begging the question, am I still a musician?

Much of the time, even when I was in the thick of performances in the past, the fact that it was a performance wasn’t really the important thing to me. It was about the music and the art itself. It was about honing my skills and enjoying the making of the music. It was also about mentoring and helping the next generation grow their skills and develop a deep appreciation for their art, something I’ve continued to do through the pandemic. Lately, as I focus on numerous personal endeavors outside of music, I explicitly turned down a few gigs this fall and early next year. I’ve even turned my small amount of practice back toward my first instrument, the piano, as I mostly neglect my wind instruments of late. On the other hand, I am continuing to enthusiastically support mentoring opportunities, so I guess I haven’t completely dropped the notes on the floor for good. In fact, I have the honor and privilege of mentoring the young musician I introduced to the pit shortly before the pandemic through his first production as the music director this coming spring. I’m excited for him, and I know he’ll put together and lead a top notch ensemble.

My reasons for not planning a return to live performance myself are varied, and not all are related to the dangers imposed by the continuing pandemic. Some have to do with my overall health. One thing that performance did was completely disrupt my sleep patterns. Although my dentist recommended it to me a few years ago, I finally got around to reading an important book for my book club entitled Why We Sleep. Although it took the better part of a year to accomplish, through the pandemic I finally settled back into my more natural sleep rhythm which is the antithesis of my performance sleep pattern. Add to that the fact that even before the pandemic I really didn’t like crowds. The continuing dangers posed by new variants even for those of us who are fully vaccinated makes crowds even less attractive to me than they were two years ago.

Does this shift in my participation mean that I am no longer a musician? The short answer to that is no. While I am not an active performer, at least not publicly, that doesn’t negate the decades I’ve spent developing my musicianship. Participating as a mentor is still an active pursuit, as is personal practice time. One of my goals after retiring from my engineering career was to regain my piano skills. The many decades I’ve spent learning new woodwinds and keeping those skills sharp for performance left little time for other instrumental practice, but in some respects, musical practice applies across the board. Reading is reading, regardless of the instrument in use. And playing written music is a particularly good brain exercise because of the depth of cognitive processing involved no matter the venue.

So yes, I am still a musician. I still have a love of and for music in my life, just more privately than before.

Additional reading:
My magical musical journey: Part 6 – outside challenges
My magical musical journey: Part 5 – practice, performance, and repeat
My magical musical journey: Part 4 – my return to organized music
My magical musical journey: Part 3 – the college years
My first pit experience
My magical musical journey: Part 2 – high school acceleration
My magical musical journey: Part 1 – the beginning
Classical Music, Why Bother?: Hearing the World of Contemporary Culture Through a Composer’s Ears by Joshua Fineberg
The Great Courses: How Music and Mathematics Relate
How to Listen to and Understand Great Music by The Great Courses
Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks
Remembering Mom and Dad by Ande Jacobson
The Student Conductor by Robert Ford
This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin
What to Listen for in Music by Aaron Copland
What to Listen for in Mozart by Robert Harris
What to Listen for in Beethoven by Robert Harris
Who Needs Classical Music?: Cultural Choice and Musical Voice by Julian Johnson
The role of the pit musician in musical theatre
The performing arts during a pandemic
‘Why We Sleep’ shows that sleep makes us smarter and healthier

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