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When I was entering my teenage years and the question "What are you going to be when you are older" began to surface amongst my friends, I was always mocked because I always said, "I'll be a professional musician".
The joke was because in that time, even if I got to travel internationally with my National Orchestra and visit the best places and got cool stuff to gift to everybody, a musician was not well seen because "Music is a Hobby, Not a Profession".
That always pissed me off, because the joke came from ignorance, from not knowing exactly all the work we have to put into our "Hobby" every single day, and the consequences that come with that, for better or worse.
On Monday, I had a rehearsal with my local orchestra and after a 4-hour set, I came home, ate lunch, and sat on the computer to transcribe some sheet music for one of my kids. The job was finished around 10 pm, with no breaks, only to eat and go to the bathroom. And that gave me the idea to share with you all, some interesting facts you might not know about the life of a musician.
1.- We all are Busy Bees
At the beginning of our careers, as with everything, we don't know anything.
We start to learn what is music, what's a Staff, Stave, or Pentagram, what are the names of the notes, etc, over here even taught how to play the flute.
Well, after that we pick our instrument and have to keep learning notations, how to read and write sheet music, how to play the instrument we pick, some of us change along the way and end up knowing the basics of several instruments, then there's the orchestra, so now we have 3 classes to go to, plus school, plus any other activity our parents had us on.
As adults, we balance our jobs at the orchestra with other jobs, and we also teach and some even have soloist programs and events, so easily you can find a musician with a busier agenda than a politician.
2.- Music is Physically Demanding
Musicians have a busy schedule, take it from me and I'm below average. But there was a time when I had 12 to 18-hour sets of rehearsals divided into 3 to 4 turns each. We play sitting down.
Can you imagine all day sitting in the same position? Some might answer yes, I do it all day at the office.
But for us, we have to add the physical effort that comes from playing our instruments. For a string player, violinist, cellist, violist, is common to have lessions like:
Rotator cuff injuries of the shoulder.
Low back pain
Yes, you read right, tennis elbow, and they got that injuries from bad technique, musicians get it from too much practice.
For the wind section, we can have:
Low back pain
Swan neck injury
So you see, it's not easy being a musician, in fact, I believe there are studies that prove that a professional musician can be compared with high-performance athletes.
3.- We are as competitive as compassionate
The job I did on Monday, was it mine to do?
No, my sheet music is fine and I know that piece by heart, but the kid doesn't know it so I helped him. That's what we do, we help each other most of the time when our competition is safe and sound. If I have the time and the capacity to help another fellow musician, why shouldn't I? Most of us are like that, but then, of course, there are the ones who see things like the one on Monday as an Advantage to rise above others and stump on you.
Anyways, check out the job I had to do:
This is what came out:
4.- Study Time is never-ending...
This is one of the most demanding things about the life of a musician, and it goes in stages, depending on what area are you developing in.
For an Orchestral Musician, we always have to be at the top of our game, which means, we always have to be studying the music we are assigned. Why? because we all are important pieces of the machine, if one is not well oiled, the rest won't perform at its best.
If you are a Conductor, you have to learn the music of all instruments, so the studying is even more demanding; also, you have to be aware of the harmonic and melodic structure of the piece in order to be able to identify its ups and downs and the climax of it. It's super stressful.
If you are a teacher, all you teach you must know it by heart, even if you are of duties, like me. Even if a play with the orchestra, in not currently on duties, meaning that I don't go to classes or even have a schedule to keep, so I can come and go as I please. But, I still study because I have to keep the knowledge fresh for my student, and if he asks me to play something I have to be able to do so, otherwise, what kind of teacher am I? I can't teach what I don't know, so, back to studying it is.
5.- Funny fact: Not all of us can Sing and Dance
Have you ever met a person who is a bad singer or is a bad dancer and later found out that has a background in music? I have and it's hilarious.
People might think that because we know about tempo and are able to keep the beat we can dance anything. Wrong!
Dancing it's not for everyone, so, no matter how good of a musician you are or how well renowned you are, if you were born with two left feet, that's that. We are 6 brothers and sisters and I'm the only dancer and not a very good one.
The same happens with singing, we know how to tune and instrument and also know when we are on and off-key, but when it comes to singing, it's another technique, it's another story, so, just because someone knows how to play the violin doesn't mean that they are great singers, well, maybe karaoke perhaps.
Any profession in the world is demanding and has its worth. Classical Music's not an exception to this rule and never has been.
I don't quite understand why this profession has been so underestimated throughout history and perhaps I'll never will.
But what's on sight doesn't need glasses, right?
I'll leave it to you to decide...
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