The Classical Music world is a strange one, isn’t it? It’s full of magic and wonder and skill and talent. From a young age, as soon as we know that we are going to pursue this as our life’s calling, we surround ourselves with other musicians, just to stay as close as possible to all of this amazing magic.
We date them, we share apartments with them. Our entire social networks are made up of them. We’ve all gone to the same festivals, colleges and conservatories, and as soon as we become friends with a new one on Facebook, we find that we already have 162 completely random friends in common.
Not only do we share a commonality in our physical experiences (ah, yes….Aspen in the summer–the best! Rochester, NY in the winter…the worst!) and in our social circles, we even share many of the same emotional ties. That devastatingly gorgeous trio in Rosenkavalier, the excitement of playing Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 for the first time (in Youth Orchestra, always). How the chimes in the 1812 Overture always make you cry (okay, fine, I know–that one’s just me.)
We eat at the same establishments, shop in the same stores, bitch about the same conductors, and everyone walks around with an instrument on their back.
There’s a certain comfort in that familiarity. And as foreign and awkward as it can feel to be at a social gathering full of non-musicians who won’t stop asking inane questions like: So, how many instruments can you play? Oh? Only the 1? Because their uncle Jimmy played, like, 6. It can feel like a homecoming to be in a room full of musicians-even if you’ve never met them.
And so, when those little glimpses of an inspired idea land on your shoulders, an idea that lights you up so bright, you can’t sleep for the excitement, you’ll probably be tempted to tell that inspired idea to take a hike and go bother someone else. I mean, it’s ridiculous to think you could even ATTEMPT such a thing. It’s too ballsy. It’s just not done. WHAT WOULD THEY THINK OF YOU?
I know, because I did it. Instead of telling my ideas to take a hike, I invited them in for a cocktail. In fact, I’m starting to make a career out of it. And I’ve learned a few things that I’d love to share with you.
If you can get to the point where you are actually going to come out in the open and announce your idea to the world, you will hear from a lot of people who want to tell you all about the great ideas THEY’VE had over the years, that they didn’t do for whatever reason: usually involving one of the following:
• Lack of money
• Young kids at home
• They were way too busy.
These stories will be told with a mixture of warning and regret. Warning: “I felt it would be too risky, and you should feel that way too otherwise you’ll be proving me wrong” and Regret: “It would have been totally amazing though.” Also, they would’ve made more money, their kids grew up regardless, and they’re still too busy-just not from doing their cool idea.
When I first started talking about my idea for the Virtual Summer Cello Festival with the peers in my coaching group, they were 100% onboard and supportive, after all, it was a group of people who were interested in doing out-of-the-box projects–that’s why we were there in the first place.
But when I told my inner-circle of musician friends? Crickets. Literally. I put it in the our text thread and……nothing….from any of them. When I asked them individually? Each one of them had a very important reason why it wouldn’t work. Zoom wasn’t reliable enough. People don’t like teaching online. People just can’t afford to send their kids to summer festivals this year. The Conservatories would likely be doing it themselves and I wouldn’t be able to compete with them.
Was I hurt? Deeply. Did I listen to them? Nope. Were they wrong? Yes, of course they were. About all of it. But here is the thing: my friends are not assholes, and it’s not that they didn’t think highly enough of me or my abilities. They just didn’t want me get hurt if it didn’t work. Once it was all shaping up, they were more supportive, but I had to learn to trust that their hesitations were more about them “looking out for me” than about them not believing in me.
When I was in middle school my friends and I would hit up Cenntennial Rink for Friday Night Skating (it was NOT as lame as it sounds, people. There was a COUPLES SKATE at the end of the night! High Stakes!) But anyway, I would be primping in front of the mirror at home trying to look as pretty/cool/not-dorky as possible, and my father would come by the door and say “why are you bothering? No one is looking at you anyway.”
Sounds harsh, I know, but as an adult, I get what he was saying. Everyone at that rink was so wrapped up in how THEY were looking, acting, being flirted with (or not) that none of us had time to notice the specifics of anyone else.
Same thing here. That bubble of camaraderie? It’s full of a bunch of classical musicians who are only concerned with whether anyone noticed that they played that run slightly out of tune, or if the conductor was smiling at them or smirking.
And in fact, if experience has taught me anything, they will probably think it’s pretty great. They will probably tell other people about the cool thing you did, and they just might ask you if you can help them do it too.
The Classical Music World IS a small, homogenized group of people who have, for the most part, had very similar experiences, but if we can build on that familiarity and the bubble of camaraderie and lean into the fact that we are also just as diverse, and full of talent, skill and creativity, there will be a lot more people starting new and interesting projects. Launching festivals, writing new works, creating new initiatives that we cannot even begin to imagine.
So please don’t be afraid. Let those little flickers of a new idea take root, smile at the warnings and the stories of regret, thank your naysayers for caring about you so much, and trust that they will all be there cheering you on in the end.
Especially me, I’ll be the one with the pom-poms cheering the loudest. Because that idea of yours? It’s going to make our strange little world even more magical.
Pssst…There’s a new Tales From The Lane Facebook Group! Come and join us over there for some live (and lively) conversations about navigating the world of professional music-making. Click here to check it out!
Doors are open for my 10-week group coaching experience, The Profit Pivot! From October 6 – December 17, an amazing group of professional musicians just like yourself are going to take their “out-of-the-box” ideas and turn them into profit-growing realities. Book a call with me today to see what that could look like for you and to grab one of the limited spots.