To be alive, to be able to see, to walk, to have houses, music, paintings – it’s all a miracle. I have adopted the technique of living life miracle to miracle.—Arthur Rubinstein
Something in me dies a little every time I’m asked that question. Music was such an overwhelming part of my life for the first 26 years. To no be playing, or conducting, or doing something creative in the field seems like a giant disappointment to myself, my parents, and all the teachers who suffered myriad lessons where I had failed to practice sufficiently. The adult I am now is less than pleased with the child I was then.
I miss making music outside of myself. I miss being part of an organization and having talented individuals with which to work, even amateurs. I miss the feeling of excitement when everything comes together in a performance and sends chills up my spine. Memories of the intensity of those moments make me glad that I had them, but wonder if I could still re-create that feeling now after being away for so long. With continued, every-day immersion in the music comes a sensitivity to the subtleties; one hears things in the 453rd listening that one did not hear before. Certainly, any sense of precision I once had would be gone now.
Questions linger in my mind as to whether I could ever return to a shadow of the musician I once imagined myself to be. For too many years, schedules that created 18- to 22-hour days prevented me from even being able to touch a piano. The day I finally sold the instrument at which I had sat through my entire childhood was painful, but not because I was losing anything that at that point was an integral part of my life. Rather, it was like the passing of a once-dear friend whom I hadn’t seen in twenty years. Mastery of music does not happen in a casual come-and-go relationship; either one is fully committed or one is merely a dabbler.
Not that music is totally absent from my life, mind you. My playlists stretch on for hours and hours; some of them could fill an entire day without any hint of repetition, but I doubt such a thing is all that unusual. My opinions and criticism of music is still just as strong as ever, also. Some may remember earlier this year when a video went viral of Denver quarterback Peyton Manning “conducting” the Denver Symphony in an incredibly weak and pathetic rendition of the University of Tennessee’s fight song, “Rocky Top.” What ruined the video for me was that Manning was holding the baton backward. How did no one correct such an obvious error?
If, as Rubenstein suggests, music is a miracle, then I have let that miracle quite literally slip through my fingers. I keep telling myself that one of these days I’ll have sufficient time and discipline to bring back the Beethoven and the Debussy, perhaps to even find a small group of which I might be a part, but we know that won’t actually happen. The music that once dominated my life has died. Perhaps it is time to let it rest in peace.