I have enjoyed playing with the Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra immensely over the last two years. At times, I have spread myself pretty thin trying to best utilize my craft. Being a musician is taxing. You are constantly looking for a position somewhere, having to prove yourself with each job. Most musicians play for several different groups in order to stay connected to the industry and build credibility. We audition over and over or send out our resume a billion times in the hopes of getting a spot on someone’s substitute list. The more respected and advanced semi-professional or community groups rarely have availability. Someone has to quit or pass away to let another musician have a chance it seems. And this is just in regards to community musical groups, I can’t even begin to imagine how cut-throat it must be in professional organizations. There will always be someone more talented, more available or more experienced. But your hope, as a musician, is more than just working with quality talent. Your hope is to work with quality people who treat each other with respect and kindness.
It has not been my habit to play for too many groups at once. As an oboist, I know how hard it is to find a spot somewhere, seating is limited. I truly don’t want to take up spots all over town, keeping other oboists from being able to enjoy their talent too. I’d rather learn a few pieces of music intimately instead of many pieces only mediocre. Plus, it is just too hard on my family for me to be gone too many weeknights or weekends. Occasionally I have taken more than one paid job or substituted for a close friend to help them keep their spot, but generally speaking, I put my whole heart and attention into one group at a time.
There is also an assumed code of conduct between musicians:
- We help each other out.
- We support one another.
- We respect each others community and seniority if appropriate.
- We do not undermine their position if seating has been assigned by auditions.
All these reasons combined made it difficult for me to step away from the Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra this season. This group has been a wonderful experience, even as the second oboist, especially after I needed to walk away from my principal position with another orchestra. Unfortunately, the drive and commitment has become greater than I can give right now with my family’s schedule. This is not my season.
However, it’s important to stay connected to the music community. So I was excited and relieved that many of my close friends still played for the first community band I had ever participated when I moved to Michigan eleven years ago.
And since they rehearse close to my house, it is the perfect way to keep up my embouchure, surround myself with people passionate about sharing their talent with others, and make some new friends while reconnecting with old friends.
Walking in to the first rehearsal last night, I suddenly caught my breath as a wave of nausea overwhelmed me. Coming down the hall was the same person that had driven me away from one of the most rewarding opportunities just a few years ago. I was totally unprepared, tears welled. I had a decision to make. Leave, letting this person steal my joy again or stay to find the joy in the music and the relationships. Before I had a chance to flee, several of my friends caught me in the hall, wrapping their arms and smiles around me, confirming how much I had missed being in their presence.
I decided to stay.
I know this dance, but hopefully I’ll learn to sing a new song.