I  just got home from two performances by my students earlier today. The first one nearly froze all of our fingers off, as we were standing outside. It didn’t seem so bad at first – sunny, probably about 50 degrees or so, but then the wind picked up and it just got so cold! My A string peg came loose and I had to “air bow” an entire piece, but luckily the string was intact. Also luckily, there were no other equipment malfunctions among the students. I was proud of their poise and ability to keep playing through any conditions.

We then moved indoors to Bloomingdales, where we had a nice setup in the back of the children’s department. It was a hectic day for all, but the kids did well again. They are so well-trained (the older ones I have worked with for five years). The younger ones are coming along fine too, although I admit I don’t stress out about them as much as I used to when all of my students were between 3 and 5 years old. I worked so hard with them for the first two years, drilling away until they learned to pay attention. I finally realized that certain kids just aren’t going to pay attention no matter what I do, so I had to let go. It’s a very difficult thing to do, when I see the performances as MY work product. I have had to let go and see that ultimately it is the children’s performance, and I rest assured knowing that I did and said what I needed to say as their teacher. What they actually do with it is not my business, nor is it under my control.

Which means that I now have space to have my own creative work product somewhere else. I stood there on the stage today, playing the 2nd violin part of Bach Double with my oldest student. She got lost halfway down the first page, but then caught right back up a few bars later. Then, towards the end of the piece, the pianist ended up being one bar ahead of us. He also eventually caught back up. But I stood there realizing that I was good. I was really good at one point in my life. And I just didn’t go for it. I know this is something I realized back in college, and keep realizing over and over again. It’s pathetic in a way to keep dwelling on it. But I need to know that I could have done it if I really wanted to. I know that now, but I don’t know what to do with that information. There are so many people out there proudly marketing themselves as “musicians” or “coaches” and it’s simply their own belief that they are. And here I am, living my life by some insanely high standard for myself, which I continue to meet and surpass, while still feeling that I am not quite good enough.

All of this contains positive seeds that can be channeled into something very powerful – the desire for self-improvement coupled with the work ethic and the talent and the passion to do something. However, I need to subtract from the equation whatever thoughts are still lingering there like, “I’m not good enough to really make it” and “I don’t call myself a musician or a coach or a doctor or a whatever, so that means I’m not really any of those things.” I am all of those things, it’s just a matter of choosing to go with one.

I felt detached from the whole significance of having taught a student from scratch to be able to play Bach Double. Five years ago when we first went to Chicago and all the alumni performed Bach Double at Orchestra Hall in Chicago, I thought to myself, “I wonder what it will be like when one of my students can play this piece someday.” And here that day is. Whoop-dee-doo. We aren’t even going to Chicago this year. Because it’s not a big enough deal for me to devote my own life to it.

So the question is, what is a big enough deal? What is my realm of influence? Where and how do I choose to use my gifts? I need to find that something. I was standing there on the stage and listening to the poor pianist blissfully playing away and not realizing he was off, noticing that my student was too young and too focused on just getting the technique correct to feel connected to the potential beauty of what she was playing. I was truly in a zone of enjoyment and gratitude for being able to play Bach – to share it. But with whom? I was probably the only one who got it.

It was after the performance, when I sat down for a cup of tea with a friend who came to see the concert all the way from Oakland, that I felt at home. I sat and just really listened to her – not just the words but all the expressions on her face and inflections in her voice. I felt the energy of what she was trying to say. I liked being able to do that. I love listening. That’s what I do. Is that a profession? It certainly is something that everyone needs – someone to listen to them. I don’t always know what to say back to them, but I do listen. I pick things up.


As I was writing this, I discovered Alison Armstrong, founder of PAX programs, who offers a framework for understanding masculine and feminine paradigms, and communication patterns in relationships between men and women. I’m going to listen to and read more of her stuff, as it is based on empirical research and intuitive models and makes a lot of sense to me. It’s illuminating to me in understanding my own behavior and expectations of myself and others in relationships. I’m going to go to school with this one!