In an alarming number of ways, it’s been so easy to be away from the classical world. I mean, look: everybody’s foaming at the mouth about declining audiences, gigs are scarce, and the likes of me was always begrudgingly admitted into the inner sanctum anyway.†
What I do miss is the music. I miss communing with Shostakovich and laughing along with Mozart. I miss rehearsals and long skirts and talking about gear. It’s been a weird kind of break-up. I’m musically lonely. But just like a break up, you have to ask yourself: do you miss the person, or just some person? And in this case, I think it’s safe to say that I just miss playing.
In stark contrast to the classical world, the rock community has been welcoming and flexible. Nobody’s freaking out over declining numbers because people continue to enjoy rock music as much as they ever have. The restructuring of the record industry has spawned a much more live-music intensive, close-to-the-ground, real interaction with listeners. Bands develop local followings. Some of the biggest acts tour small venues: this creates intimacy with the audience and is also cost effective. I remember seeing Weezer play numerous small venues around Los Angeles during the period they were selling out arenas overseas.
One thing that every genre of musician should have in common is love for what they do. To choose performance is a risk, compelled by an uncomfortable need to express the human condition through, in my case, a box with four strings tightly pulled across it. It was something that I marginalized as my teaching picked up and the gigging situation in Los Angeles deteriorated. As always, we tend to fail spectacularly when someone else determines what happiness or success looks like.
Maybe you guys saw this coming. I came out here to get a masters in education and have emerged as a performer once more. I think we get caught up talking like a resume. What am I? What do I want to be when I grow up? I have yet to meet anyone worth anything who can truly be summed up in a snazzy five word catchphrase. So yes, I teach. I have thoughts on education. Yes, I’m studying cognitive whosit whatsitcalled, yes, I’m learning about curriculum. I’m a cellist who does all of those things. I’m a musician who does more than the cello. And I’m actually a person, more than any of that.
Getting to know someone should take time. Getting to know myself is perhaps a lifelong mission: the mistake detour I took was a result of trying to make my life look like the one-dimensional catchphrase it can never be.
I will play the Bach Suites however I like. I will make loud noises and lots of mistakes. I will stop waiting for the classical world to get me. Mozart and I understand each other just fine. And in the end, I think we’re both laughing.
I’m ready to rock.
† I mean, when I posted some videos about Haydn C major on YouTube, I got death threats. Actual death threats. Just look at the frenzy that ensues when someone puts out a new or different interpretation of anything. Yo-Yo Ma became a “sellout” when he did that Bach Suites project. Thousands of cellists live in fear of playing those pieces for fear of ridicule. Enough! I say the whole thing deserves to die in a fire and emerge as something better when the time is right. When the people are motivated by something more.