This crazy Fall semester with so much travel and different performances has been full of lessons, some of which I am still thinking through and trying to decode. I can’t believe that after all the worry and work, after a national conference performance with the UAB Chamber Trio in Santa Fe this weekend, I will be up to the last big event of the semester- a solo recital tour and then my faculty recital with my colleague, a Russian pianist who was a silver medalist in the Van Cliburn Piano Competition- the most prestigious piano competition in the world. Playing with him can be intimidating…but it is also an amazing gift.
Our first rehearsal happened at the end of a long day of teaching. My brain was fried, and I was anxious about going to work on our challenging program with this man I respect so immensely. I’ve had so much music to learn, so many different events crammed into an already packed semester. Normally, all I would do would be the faculty recital, but I have branched out into some really satisfying chamber music opportunities, and I am embracing being able to make music with people I truly enjoy playing with, traveling to new places to perform.
I didn’t feel ready to rehearse, didn’t feel confident that I was prepared. But you know what? I always feel that way. I never feel like I will be at the level that I want achieve. In a perfect performer’s world, I would have hours and hours a day to practice with no interruptions, and no other distractions from my preparation. That, however, is not my life. I have a packed teaching schedule, a husband, animals, and a big old house and yard to care for. Someone is always at the door asking for my help. I wouldn’t change a thing, but it makes finding the focused practice time I need a challenge…I like challenges, though.
As we began to get into the stride of our rehearsal, I remembered why I love playing with my colleague so much. He pushes me to be the best version of my musician self. Playing with people who are better than I am always has that effect, and that’s why I will continue to seek out those opportunities. He keeps me on my toes, makes me think about the music in a different way, even pieces that I have known and played for many years. It is a true collaboration, but I also feel like a student again, learning at the feet of this phenomenal musician, listening to his great musician heart coming from the keyboard. He challenges me to be a better clarinetist and a better musician by raising the bar, again and again. And so even though playing with him can be a bit terrifying, I will jump at every opportunity to do so, because I never ever want to stop learning and growing as a musician, or as a person. I can’t think of a more exciting way to live my life than to be in a constant state of reaching for my better self.