Saturday, October 6, 2012

What It Means to Be a Musician

If you don't know already, I am a musician.  At the core of me, there is a vocalist, an instrumentalist, a performer.  Being a musician is one of those things in my life that was sort of "created for me".  I didn't take expensive voice lessons, I didn't attend a performing arts high school, I didn't get a degree from Juliard.  But when I think about what would be left if you stripped everything from me, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the musician part of me would still be there.  Things in my life in regards to music have always just "worked out".  Almost as if the pathway has been paved for me...

When I was going into 6th grade, we had to choose an elective.  I was always an athlete, yes, but there was never even a question about what my "artistic" elective would be.  It was always band.  Not sure why.  It's not as though my family was full of instrumentalists.  My mom and her sisters played piano and sang in choirs.  My grandmothers were in choirs.  I grew up singing solos and in children's choir in church.  But I never had to think about being in band.  It was the natural answer for me when the time came to choose.  So my mom and I went to the middle school to talk with the band director about picking an instrument.  I had seen a picture of an English Horn in my elementary music classroom.  For your reference, here's what that looks like:

I was so enchanted by it.  It was so quirky and different, and I decided right then and there that I want to play it when I "got bigger".  So I marched right up to that band director and said "I want to play the French Horn."  Not realizing that I mixed up English and French.  Oops!  So he says "Wow!  You're the first one to even know what that is!  Here try this mouthpiece out."  And the rest was history.  I became a French Horn player that day.  Of course when I got to the first day of school and saw this waiting for me:

I was understandably perplexed.  I was expecting something totally different, but, being who I am, I was like "You know what...just go with it."  And go I did.  I was an All-Stater twice (if you're not from Texas or you're not a musician, suffice to say that making All-State ONCE is a big deal...twice is almost unheard of...).  It was and always has been one of those things that when I sit down with my horn, it is an extension of me.  What comes out of that instrument is straight from my soul.  It is my inner voice.  I feel whole when I make music with it.  

I went to the University of Oklahoma on a scholarship to play horn, and had defiantly decided that I "didn't want to be a music major".  But guess what??  That musician in me got so easily lured right back into that world of performance and music making.  It was home for me.  So I went for it and graduated with a Music Education degree.  I couldn't think of anything more worthwhile than instilling that love and passion for music into kids.  So that's what I did.  But the MAKING of music is what inspired and inspires me.  Here's a few pictures of me with my rose brass baby:

Me playing at my senior recital with the lovely and talented Kendall Michaelson.  The piece I'm playing here, Franz Strauss Nocturno Op. 7, is probably one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written in my opinion.  Listen to it here. I would embed a recording of me playing it but sadly, being in Freeport I don't have my recording here!  But that recording comes as close to how I would play it as I could find.  Of course I had to go against the grain a little in my senior recital and replace the piano with the harp!

This is me playing a Concerto by a composer named Frigyes Hidas (who had ironically passed away about a week before my recital).  This piece kicked my friggin' butt while at the same time inspiring the heck outta me.  Listen to it (if you dare) here.  That version in the recording is with a full orchestra and listening to it there makes me SO wish I had my oh so talented brother-in-law Patrick play the percussion part!  That is one of 4 "movements" in the piece which was about 45 minutes long in total!! Yikes!  My face felt like I'd been punched after that performance and I still had one more 3 movement piece to play!

This is me with my woodwind quintet (yes a French Horn is a brass instrument, but we play in woodwind groups too...such a chameleon my instrument is!)  We were called Moment Musiceaux.  Cheesy but fabulous.  The bassoonist and the oboist were also in my senior recital...

The University of Oklahoma Horn Studio circa 2005 (I think).  I'm in the back left rocking my "I'm 20 but I look 14" look. ;)  So many great people in this picture that I have so many great memories of.  So many of those faces I look at and remember such specific stories that make me smile!

I love being a musician because it is being an artist in the rawest and purist sense of the term.  When you're playing an instrument, especially in a solo setting, your mistakes are out there for everyone to hear.  No performance is perfect.  We're always striving for that flawless performance, and as a musician that really never exists in our minds.  But it is such a personal struggle.  There are moments of perfection, yes.  And the high you experience from those moments of perfection is UNMATCHABLE let me tell you!  Being in a band is the same as being in a REALLY creative family.  You're all working for one thing...that near perfect performance.  It brings out the best in all of us and sometimes the worst.  But it's art at it's finest.  The human soul communicating through a medium that's unique ONLY to musicians.  There were times in college that I was lonely, or homesick, or excited, or inspired, and the ONLY thing I wanted to do was shut myself in a practice room with a piano and play and sing.  I would camp out in there for hours!  When my face would get tired of playing horn, I would hit the piano, when that got boring I would sing (sometimes sing and play piano), and then I'd repeat the cycle.  When I think of what my mansion in Heaven will be like, I can't imagine it without MY French Horn (I've played it so much that MY hand print is literally imprinted on the inside of the bell!) and a stage with a piano on it.  I could spend days there and be happy as a clam!

Teaching music has been a passion of mine for a long time too.  This is the first time in a REALLY long time that I haven't been playing, singing, teaching, or leading in the music world.  I think it's literally the first time in my life where I've had to step away from it for a minute.  I really do miss my horn down here in Freeport.  There are days I wish I could just whip it out and play a little.  That would make me so happy!  I miss it, but departing from it for a minute doesn't take away from that core part of me that is wholly a musician.  It is something that was created in me before I drew breath, I think, and I hope that the ways in which I have used that gift have been ways that have honored the One who instilled it in me to begin with.  So in closing, I leave you with this quote:

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm to life and to everything.  -- Plato


  1. Awesome, plus I had to click on it anyway when I saw the English horn picture. I had that quote on my email tag for a while, one of my favorites. Plato also believed that there are only three essential subjects. Math, for logic. Physical activity, for the body. Music, for the soul. :)

    1. Thanks Matt! Hope things are going well for you at Keller. And yes, ever since I wrote that post I've been perpetually playing horn music on my computer. It's a little weird to be so removed from it all!


A Different Kind of Flair