Saying “to know me is to love me“ is usually used in sharing who you are with another person. But what if we think about it in relation to “self” instead? Do we really know ourselves as teachers, as coaches, as humans? Do we know our strengths and weaknesses? Do we know our purpose? Do we love ourselves? I say we first need to know these things about ourselves as collaborative artists and then we need to teach these same things to our students as another “structural form ” in the fundamentals year.
Who are you as a collaborative artist? Do you work with musical theatre? Are you an instrumental person who can learn really complicated music very quickly? Are you more of a coach accompanist to vocal students? Are you a choral accompanist? Do you do special events work? I could go on and on because the list of possibilities is pretty endless isn’t it? In all actuality you may do all of these things. I know I have done all of the above at one time or another in my career. We do whatever it takes to make a living right?
But what if you were created to do something specific in this line of work? I know from 40+ years of accompanying that I like all of the work I listed above, but recently I have been paring things down to what I LOVE, instead of what I just like. I mean I kid around a lot and say I don’t work for a living, I play, but now I want to play because I LOVE it, not just because I need to make a living!
I started playing for choirs when I was 12….yes schools back in the dark ages used to use students for accompanying instead of hiring people like us. I have always loved choral accompanying. I love the camaraderie of making music as a team, I love playing with “an instrument” that has so many varied sounds and nuances. I love going on tour and building relationships with the students. It just fires me up.
I used to do a lot of instrumental accompanying, and I still do a little bit, but it’s not my great love. I think mostly I don’t love it because this is the genre where I always get the music late in the game….”Hey my recital is in two weeks, can you play the Creston for me?” We don’t have many rehearsals, I barely know the person I’m playing for and it just never gels for me. I’m more about building deep and abiding relationships.
And don’t even get me started on event playing…..schlepping the instrument, the bench, the extension cords, or playing on broken and out of tune instruments for people who are not even really listening…..yeah, not loving it.
I started playing for voice studios when I was in college and I was hooked from the very beginning. I get to build much deeper relationships with the students because I see them for both a lesson and a coaching session each week. This far surpasses the amount of time I get to spend with instrumental students. As a result, I invest my heart and soul into them. I “do life” with them. I actually get to do the things I’m writing these blog posts about.
We joke about me being their school mom, but in a way, that’s exactly who I am, what I do and what I love the most. I love taking students who are scared of the new scenario of college life and holding their hands a little until their fears are calmed. I love taking untrained voices and helping them to understand what their teacher wants and expects from them. I love helping them over the rough patches in life…. a bad breakup, a death in their family, failing a class, too much work. I love seeing them “get it” and finally understanding how to recreate the sound they had in the voice lesson, but can’t seem to find again in the practice room. I love putting recitals together with them and working through all of the frustrations until we create something beautiful together. I love learning to know who they are, and helping them to discover these same things about themselves. Honestly, the only thing I don’t like about this job is them graduating and leaving me!
My job right now is a perfect fit for me. I am the vocal and choral staff accompanist at The University of North Georgia and I LOVE it! I love going to work every day…..ok, maybe not the last week of the semester, but every other day. What I love may not be your cup of tea, and thankfully there are people out there who really DO love playing the Creston at the last minute. You know who you are. Bless you! But finding out who I am, learning to love who I am, and doing exactly what I was created to do every day, that’s my thing. And besides, now that I know who I am and I’m no longer comparing myself to people like Martin Katz and Gerald Moore, I have come to realize that I’m pretty darn good at what I do, and I’m perfect for the job I have. To know me is to love me, and now that I know me, I can say that’s true.