Thoughts for a more joyful art

'Simon Rattle leads the Orquesta Nacional Infantil' - Photo Credit: FundaMusical Bolivar

In my previous post, I wrote about musicians being reminded of the spirit of joy that inhabits their art. The conversations that followed my sharing of the Salzburg rehearsal story have prompted me to try to bring forth a few ideas to help bring us (musicians) to realizing a deeper meaning to the experience of music. These thoughts have been inspired by my own work as a conductor and teacher with El Sistema and elsewhere. In many ways these are also pedagogical in nature. They often guide my work as I seek to help others bring forth their best music-making.  Please feel free to share these with fellow musicians. They are conveniently expressed in 'Tweet' form. 

A few ideas to help ensembles and musicians transcend with a more joyful art: 

Be idealistic in your experience of sharing music. Everyone should play for a reason; those that truly know why they play as opposed to how to play can generate the kind of meaning that will draw more people in.
Be creative with your playing. Draw every ounce of surprise, melancholy, mischievousness, and defiance (you name it) from the score and dare to extend the boundaries of what was originally conceived.  
Be generous in your music-making. Powerful connections can be made when listening intently to your neighbor’s part while you play yours. This is called interdependence—you are responsible for others and they are responsible for you. Everybody wins.  
Be grateful for your gift. Remember that even today, the opportunity to learn music is rare; and the fact that you are a musician makes you a purveyor of beauty, one of the world’s most sought-after riches.
Be present in the moment, or better yet… show the music. A musical performance is not just an aural experience but a visual one as well. On stage, thoughtful gestures can help highlight your musical intent and presence.
Be committed to excellence. You should always aim to give the performance of your life, but remember, that perfection should never be the goal. A performance is always both the end and beginning of your learning a piece of music. This is an infinite process. 
And…don’t forget to smile. It tells everyone that you love what you do. 

March 2014 

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