Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Balancing Act

One thing my interviewees all seem to have in common was aptly described by Dan McDougall, double bassist and Curtis’s go-to guy. (Our conversation will be posted here in a few days.) 

Dan said that when he was younger he had a “say yes to everything mentality.” Other words I might use -- and I’m describing myself here, not anyone else, lest ye take issue with my word choice -- would be overachieving, workaholic, perfectionist, ADD, and crazy.

This makes for an interesting juxtaposition -- the perfectionism in particular -- when you have two or more distinct careers. As Chris Schmidt said, “I think what happens, when you have this kind of life, is that you have to make a lot of choices about what you can and can’t do."

This has been on my mind a lot recently, especially regarding my career at Curtis. While I desire to succeed and advance like most people, I also know that may lead to a point where I can’t play the oboe at the level I want. And while I continue to build my freelance career, I realize that has its limits while I’m working a separate full-time job. 

I’ve found a better balance than I used to have even a year ago when I ran myself ragged for seven months taking four auditions. For example, I have learned to be less hard on myself if the apartment is a mess or I forget to reply to an email or if I’m eating out a lot because I don’t have time to get groceries and cook. When I’m doing both jobs, some things are going to have to go by the wayside.
Also, I think rest and relaxation are important, so I try to catch up on that after a busy time period. And I firmly believe in the law of diminishing returns: Even if it seems productive to stay up all night working on reeds, at some point it's better to sleep and come back fresh the next day before you ruin them all. 

I'm lucky to have two careers that really complement each other. You don’t need to be a musician to fund-raise at a music conservatory; my co-workers come from a variety of backgrounds. But I’m able to converse with our donors and write grant proposals rather easily because I love and know what I’m talking about. 

Oboists are also known for being neurotic. This may explain why I enjoy putting together complex grant proposals to bureaucratic organizations such as The Pew Charitable Trusts or Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Working in arts administration gives me great appreciation for all that goes into making a performance happen. I think it helps with my perspective on playing, too. Since it’s not my sole source of income, I’m able to pick and choose jobs that are meaningful to me. When I am doing them, I feel very fortunate because I spend so much of my time sitting at a desk.

My whole life is dedicated to music, even though I'm doing other things with it besides just playing the oboe. When I first started working professionally, I thought it was going to be impossible to do two different careers for very long because the oboe is so unforgiving and difficult. 

After several years of living my "double life" -- and by meeting a lot of amazing people through my jobs and this blog -- I have learned that there are many hours in the day, and if you manage your time you can accomplish a lot.

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