There are some folk who don't see the gem inside my rough exterior who might consider me a hot head. To which I say a hearty "bite me". But let this opinion be a caution that within this blog may lurk items of a venting nature or perhaps those which might be considered a rant. So be it. Proceed with caution. You have been warned.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Down Side

I've posted in the past about the rewards of participating in amateur musical organizations. Today's post looks at the other side.

Earlier this sping I found myself digging deep to find reasons to continue in my community orchestra. I really would like to find them because my wife almost literally lives for orchestra and I want to share things like this with her. We have had some really great moments as a result of both of us participating in the same organization and we have shared some disappointments as well. It has done our relationship good.
Frequently when someone is confronting a quandary people will advise them to make a list - or rather two lists, one of the pros and one of the cons.

First the pros:

Performance can be very rewarding. Many of what could be called the "peak experiences" in my life have come during a variety of performances. Sitting next to a fabulous horn player during a performance of Alfred Reed's "The Hounds of Spring"; being in the midst of the huge volcano of sound that is Orff's "Carmina Burana"; being brought very near to tears during Elgar's "Enigma Variations"; having the rare privilege of participating in a dreamlike performance of the finale of Act I of "La Boheme"; conducting a community theater performance of "Gypsy" where the tiny amateur pit orchestra became more than the sum of its parts and rode its unexpected newfound standard for 2 hours; standing on stage after a solo performance with my instrument in my hand realizing I had just knocked it out of the park; all examples and there are more, but really surprisingly few considering 50 odd years of performances. These moments when you become more than yourself, become outside yourself, become part of the music do not occur often but they are heady indeed and reassure one that something about this is just "right".

Playing a wind instrument is good for you. It provides cardio and respiratory health benefits.It takes you away from routine and relieves stress. It is impossible to play well and concentrate on problems at work or home.

As mentioned before, it is something to share with someone close to you.

It can be a social activity and provides connections with others in the group - a sense of shared enterprise and camaraderie.

Now the cons:

It is affecting my health. I have to fortify myself with strong antacids and IBS calming drugs before I go to rehearsal.

It is incredibly frustrating. Without getting into specifics, at the end of rehearsals I don't have relaxation that the feeling that something good has been accomplished would impart. Instead my blood pressure is up, my head aches, and I feel that much of my time has been wasted, that there is lack of respect for the sacrifices I make to belong to the group and that unreasonable expectations are constantly foisted on orchestra members.

I get so worked up by the inefficiencies of what I have just given 2 1/2 hours to (or 3 or 4 or 5 or whatever length of time I am expected to put up with in order to get to go home) that I cannot relax and I wind up venting my frustrations to my wife who I am sure is getting tired of hearing it not to mention it can't be healthy for her to be worried about my state when there is nothing she can do about it.

I think it is obvious that in order to continue the payoff has to be greater than the distress, but when performance quality is sacrificed to the perceived aggrandizement of the group, the payoff becomes sad and disappointing. Frankly I don't care how many people in Des Moines have heard of the orchestra yet will never attend a concert, I care about quality of performance - not quality of performance as judged by people that are attending to watch their kids perform or even as judged by the regular audience of music lovers - but quality of performance where I myself can walk away thinking "we did the best job we were capable of". It has been a while.

Our season ended in early May. I was so soured on the experience I did not get the old bedpost out of his case until a quintet rehearsal late in June. This really saddens me as I have spent many enjoyable hours alone with the bassoon in my practice room. Currently I am returning to an earlier interest in classical guitar as a way to fulfill the need I seemingly have to express myself musically. The orchestra's programming for the next season is highly motivating, however, with several masterworks scheduled that I have yet to perform and one concert devoted solely to Richard Wagner. I'm hoping that another meeting with the quintet and determination to renew my relationship with the bassoon will help me put a more positive slant on the coming season. But if things don't improve dramatically in the realm of respect for the musicians and efficient use of rehearsal time it is likely to be my last.

No comments: