This is because of a combination of several factors, of course-I thankfully don't suffer from insomnia, but two main ones.
wanted to break up the text with something. and they're so cute.
Do you have kids yet? Are you a classical violinist? Do you work at least part time? If you are, I would love to hear how you do it. Because the last time I checked, practicing the violin requires 3-4 hours a day of focused practice. And I can't focus on anything for more than 30 seconds . Ok, so daycare. Daycare is amazing, and when my daughter was old enough, she was in a fantastic one from 730-4. But now I have two, and honestly, daycare doesn't cure mommy brain!
Now I just wanted to let you know, though, that I'm finally starting to come up for air, two and a half years later, and sweetheart, there does come a point where suddenly you can breathe a little more (maybe even get some sleep, but who knows)
When you finish music school, with a BA or an MA or even a Doctorate, your goals are the same- make money. Now, naturally educational institutions really place very little emphasis on any entrepreneurial action-rather, you are encouraged to join a symphony and teach at a conservatory-unless you are very lucky and are offered opportunities to work towards a solo career. There are literally no other options that are worth being considered for a "serious" musician.
I was pulled into that trap as well as anyone. When I got pregnant with my first, I cried for weeks. I saw it as the end. Now I have no chance of being "successful" in my career, and I was determined to get into a symphony before I lost all my capabilities and was turned into a former violinist who has an instrument collecting dust somewhere in their attic, or worse, a *gasp* teacher in a school.
Ok, it didn't happen. I did go to my first audition, but not until my daughter was 6 months old, and after I had finished a year of my MA.
There were external factors I could blame, of course, for not getting in, but the big one was, that although I was receiving lessons from a generous stipend, I didn't have money for childcare at the same time, so I was trying to steal time to practice between nap time, bedtime, playtime, breakfast time,crying time, bath time, smile-time, cleanup-time, spitup-time, diaper-time, rocking-time..
Oh my god. Babies are a fartootling lot of work.
I found out who would be the accompanist at the auditions, arranged for two rehearsals beforehand, sounded (if I may say so), pretty amazing (my very strict, amazing Russian teacher agreed), but then the audition arrives, the pianist comes an hour late and gets so nervous that he loses his place, makes a hundred mistakes, and besides for all the nerves I was feeling beforehand, the nerves of his not making it, the nerves of his screwing up, the nerves of this being THE BIG THING in my career made me explode from anxiety inside.
Auditions of this sort / at this level are blind in the classical music world, which means that they are done from behind a curtain, and while it seems like it would be nice to know that at least they didn't judge you to your face, the actual fact of the matter is that rejection isn't fun ever, ok, and that is literally the understatement of the century.
I felt like I had died inside.
I remember afterwards walking really far from the Henry Crown Theater, where the audition was held, bawling my eyes out, and having strangers come over to me, attempting to comfort me. I felt like I had failed at my life's mission and that I was no longer worthy of living on this planet with all the "worthy" people.
Cut. Seriously. You think I'm being a drama queen here?
The problem is, I know that I'm not the only one who thinks that way (I don't think like that anymore, but thought would mean all the people thought past tense and I know that's not true). That's the trick of the classical music world. It's very similar to a cult. You get into this trance of what "perfection" is, and constantly feel like you must attain it, and spend all your working hours working to attain it, and the people who HAVE attained it are worshipped on the level of the Greek gods. People spend money on violins, bows, lessons, masterclasses, mastercourses, practice coaches, youth orchestras and all the possible accessories, and if you have other things that are important in your life-well, you're obviously not as serious as the rest of us.
And when people break the cycle, other people look down on them. Judge them for ceasing the uphill battle towards perfection. And perfection is hard to attain when you are covered in spit up and haven't slept in several years. It's also hard to remember WHY you want to attain it, since everyone is different, so why should everyone want the same thing? But I was still stuck in the trance, and nobody close to me who wasn't from 'my' world couldn't possibly understand it, so I kept on working.
MA, recital, performances, teaching, parenting, first solo with orchestra, flown to England to perform, and all the time the itch, the fear, the panic-if I don't get into an orchestra I'll lose all my abilities, and I'll never, ever, ever be successful.
We move towns for my husbands job, and I start thinking about auditioning again. By the time I get in touch with a local orchestra I have two tiny kids and the starting salary is so low that it kisses minimum wage. But I must be in an orchestra! What would I do otherwise? How would anyone respect me as a musician? So they push off my coming in over and over, and I practice orchestral excerpts like my fingers are going to fall off, and summer vacation arrives, and my daughters at home, she's turning 3 this summer, my 4 month old baby's at home. All summer long the same juggle, times two, as the juggle when I went for my first audition.
In June, I sounded decent. By August, though...
Breakfasttime, Lunchtime, Parktime, Playtime, Barney-time- it just goes on and on my friend, some people started singing it not knowing what it was, and they'll continue singing it forever just because. 10 minutes here. Ok, Mahler excerpt. Naptime. Schumann Scherzo. Bedtime, Mozart 4. Two months of this turned me into a mommy-zombie.
Makee ittt stopppp
They finally call, schedule a date for the last week of August. After 2 months of this insanity that some people call stay-at-home mom, and others call pure hell.
"Sure" I say, and cut my right thumb as I'm cutting up some fruit (a necessary appendage for violin playing, if you were curious).
Shoot, that's a deep cut.
"Prepare Strauss? Ein Heldenleben? How do you spell that?" I asked, knowing full well that there was absolutely no chance in hell that it would be ready by next week.
Oh crud, we are out of printer ink, so I squint at the computer trying to read the sheet music from stringexcerpts.com. I write in my imagination some fingerings for a difficult passage. I'll remember that, right?
I come into the audition with some kind of food stuck to my shirt and probably some more in my hair. The guy recognises me from something I did in the Academy-this is a tiny country, have I ever mentioned that?
Great, just great. I peek inside the room, and I see the back of someone I studied with sitting in first chair. The tall, thin, Russian type? You know one of them. Not mean or anything, nobody was really ever mean, but definitely more cookie-cutter than I have ever been in my whole life and she was sitting first chair second violins.
"Ok God, this is a sub-par orchestra. Who cares that I am not at my regular level and I didn't properly prepare? I should get in anyways. She got in, after all. They should be jumping through hoops to get a violinist like me!"
They ask me to play the Strauss. I hem and haw, and they give me those eyes, like hawks swooping in on their prey.
And I play it, too sloppy.
I offer to play one of the other excerpts that I know in my sleep, but they don't really want to hear anything else. They offer another audition with the musical director in a month, I say "ok, great!".
A month gives me quite a lot of time to prepare, after all. I could be Heifetz in a month. Ignore the myriad of Jewish Holidays coming up and my parents coming to visit from America, and the thousands of students we hosted for Shabbat meals on the weekends...A month is DEFINITELY enough time for me to attain absolute perfection.
The next week I get a call from Yad Vashem Canada.
"Hi, Ariella? We saw one of your Youtube clips and we think you are fabulous, we would like to fly you in for our Gala in a little less than a month, are you free?"
My mouth drops to the floor as she fills me in on more details. Am I available to be flown to an enormous gala where Nicholas Sarkozy will be speaking and tables start at $10,000?
"Oh, yes, well sure, I think I'm available"
Two days later, the tickets were booked. And yes, I brought my 6 month old. My mother came up to meet me so she could watch him during the evening.
A week later, they call me back from the symphony and give me the date that the musical director is available.
"Sorry, I'll be in Toronto, maybe when I get back".
PS: I don't know if there's a moral to this story, since I'm still a struggling musician, and I don't have any real shortcuts or trade secrets to share. But I do know that there is a bigger world out there than just a narrowly defined version of success. So find YOUR success. You can do it while simultaneously following someone else's version of success, and practice your success on the side, for now. But there is something so incredibly unique that you have to give to the world, and don't hold yourself back by assuming that what they told you is what you have to be doing. I'm certainly much happier and making more money than I would have been if I had taken that orchestra job. But I don't know what my classical friends think of me, besides for that I'm totally off the deep end (which I was before, let's be honest). In any case, I feel like I've found my truth and my success, and a healthy balance, too-with so much love to go around that I'm exploding. I'm wishing the same for you. Thanks for reading!