What Makes You A Musician?

There is a question commonly asked amongst people in the Armenian diaspora:

What makes someone Armenian?

You see, just over 100 years ago, and throughout history (and into this week, sadly) Armenians have been displaced from their homeland and have spread out all over the world.  Large portions of Turkey and Azerbaijan were formally part of the country of Armenia.

My grandparents, for instance, were from a village in central Turkey. My ancestors never set foot in what is modern day Armenia.

And yet, we are decidedly Armenian.

And so the conversations would go: is it the language? the food? the music? the stories?

D) all of the above.


It’s our identity.



Now, you’ll find large populations of Armenians in any city.  In fact, even here in on this tiny little island in the middle of nowhere, there are 5 of us–we get together for breakfast every other Monday. One is from Canada, one from Yerevan, one from Istanbul, one from Beirut, and I’m from Chicago, and yet, with our shared identity, we are like family.

Amongst my music friends, I am watching a painfully dull ache creep into their social media posts and into our conversations. last spring was a shock. Musicians acted quickly and brilliantly to figure out zoom, online teaching, and the beautiful world of external microphones. Stimulus checks and unemployment benefits came through to save the day when expected performances and tours disappeared overnight.



Then it was summer. Work is always slow in the summer, and there were so many important issues to focus on. Racial Equality, Justice Reforms, THE ELECTION, carried our attention, our energy, and gave us all a sense of purpose each day.

But now the election is over and our online teaching studios are groovin’ along. The protests have died down, and we are making our way through a stack of books on our nightstands. We are smack dab in the middle of what everyone was warning us about: “The New Normal.”

The COVID cases keep rising, and although there seems to be a vaccine on the horizon, live concerts are not. A few projects here and there, sure, but not enough to cover expenses.  8 months in–any savings people had are pretty much eaten away, and it’s clear that more than a band-aid is needed here.

For some, it’s not the money that is the concern.  For some, it’s the fact that they are growing bored of practicing just for themselves. They are in search of a new purpose.


If a musician practices Bach in a living room but no one is there to hear it (or pay them for it), are they still a professional musician?




Some musicians are starting to think about a plan B.  Some of those plans involve expanding work that they already do and putting it all online (like teaching, and giving workshops).  Some of those plans involve doing something completely outside of playing their instrument, but gearing it towards musicians.  I have a client who is working as a fitness and nutrition coach FOR MUSICIANS and deals with energy optimization, instrument specific strength exercises, and even has some kick-ass recipes for amazing practice break snacks (*coaching perks)

Some, like me, are doing a combination.  I have my Bridge Online Cello Studio and the Virtual Summer Cello Festival, and I also work with musicians as a business coach.

Does one make me a musician and the other not?

Am I a cellist if I am teaching cello, but not if I am coaching a musician on the ins and outs of setting up their LLC?


After all, I speak the language, I eat the food (10pm dinner of red wine and popcorn, anyone?) I listen to the music.  I have ALL OF THE STORIES. and most importantly:


It’s my identity.


As much as I am an Armenian, no matter where I was born, or where I live now, I will forever be a cellist, whether I am on stage performing, or backstage supporting.


What makes you a musician?

What might allow you to thrive these days?

Are they mutually exclusive?




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