In Praise of the Expected


I was incredibly fortunate to have grown up in an almost surreal musical environment where everyone was good. Like, really good. As a group of young musicians, we were almost absurdly good. The bar was high, and in our own individual ways, we all met it.

It’s funny, though, that always being a pack of talented, high-achieving musicians, meant that nobody ever made much of a fuss about any of us. I don’t really remember anyone ever coming out and saying–wow, you’re a great cellist. I mean, I won competitions, and auditions, and was given tons of great opportunities, and scholarships. People would say “nicely done.” or “ good job” about a particular performance or audition, but I cannot remember a single instance where people randomly, out of the blue, said “you’re such a great player!” or “I just love listening to you play!” It was just about doing what needed to be done that day and then practicing for the next thing. 

We did it because we loved it, we didn’t necessarily need or look for that praise, and it wasn’t until recently that it even occurred to me that it was absent.



It was only when I decided to retire from my performance life that people freaked out– “but you can’t!” they said. “But you’re too good a musician!”  “But I love hearing and seeing you perform!” But, but, but.  

That’s when it occurred to me––I had never heard those words. Not from a teacher, a friend, a colleague, or a conductor. No one. Okay, probably my Dad.  But let’s be real. I could have walked on stage with a broken, out-of-tune cello with 2 strings missing and he would have said I was the best one there. (Get yourself a dad like that, friends!)

So it baffles me whenever I write something, and people send over positive comments and beaming praise. “You’re such a good writer!” “I LOVE reading your blog posts”  “That was the first draft? Holy crap!” 


Photo by Nick Morrison for


Have you noticed that too? You make a pie, and the crust is burnt, and the pieces fall apart on the plate into a pile of goop, but OMYGODYOUMADETHIS? That pie (and your role as the maker of said pie)  is the star of the show. But if you were a pastry chef? It would just be “oh, and Jessica made the pies, of course,” Expected. 


Taken for granted. 


I suspect that if I were to join an MFA program or a writer’s group, the comments would stop. I would be identified as a writer, maybe even at that point, as a serious writer, and the focus would shift from what I could do well (a little), to what I needed to work on (a lot!). It would be about the critique Writing at a certain level would be the expectation, and the praise would cease. 

So the writing done by a cellist is unexpected and worthy of praise and encouragement. But the writing done by a writer is just a job. 

And the art made by an amateur is unexpected and worthy of praise and encouragement, but the art made by an artist is just their job. 



Let’s take notice today, of people doing what is expected of them, and let them know that they’re good at it. That you are impressed. Whether it’s the barista crafting your morning coffee–just the way you like it each day, or your colleague sitting next to you in the pit this evening. What would happen if you looked over and said “you know, you’re a great player-I really enjoy sitting with you!”

And while you’re at it, remind yourself, that you, too, are worthy of a bit of praise. I see you there, day after day, teaching, playing, writing, whatever it is you’re doing, you’re doing it damn well.  

We know it’s not easy. It always requires the kind of thought and focus and skills you were trained in. It’s truly remarkable how consistent artists are when it comes to putting out high-quality “product.”


Let’s all celebrate each other, and the beauty in doing the expected really, really, well. 




P.S. I still have a few available spots for a 1:1 Strategy Session, I’m opening up my calendar between now and January 7th, and offering them to you at a pretty steep discount. Normally, a session like this costs $250, but I’m offering these 1-off 2023 Strategy Sessions to you this month (December) for $149. You can book one right here. (Only 2 rules: 1 session per person, and they must be completed before January 7th, 2023.)

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