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Why do musicians do what we do?
Why do musicians do what we do?

Why do musicians do what we do?

I stumbled across this half-written post in my drafts folder; it’s been gathering dust there for a couple years based on the concert I describe.


Why do musicians do what we do? That’s something I’ve been pondering lately. We lock ourselves away in small rooms, patiently unsnarling problems, forcing our fingers to learn new patterns, torturing ourselves with the quest for perfection. It can be demoralizing but it can also be exhilarating when it all comes together, and it is hard work. I tell my students that practicing is unlikely to be fun but it sure better be satisfying.

Last Sunday I had my final wind ensemble concert of the season. Truly one of the best concerts we’ve ever done, and I can’t wait to hear a recording. From the first notes of “Wine Dark Sea” we were locked in as an ensemble. It’s such a magnificent and bizarre feeling, to have that musically psychic connection with a hundred people. You breathe together, you feel together, you’re just one connected organism, and when it happens you can make some of the most intense music ever. It’s like sex. When you’re that in tune with one another, magic happens. And magic happened the other night on stage. The entire concert was sexy sexy magic. I love it when that happens. It’s a feeling like none other. Pure exhilaration.

THAT’S why musicians do what we do.


I miss playing in band. I do practice (not nearly as often or as focused as I’d like) but it’s not the same. I miss that deep musical connection you can only have with other strong musicians, I miss the internal reward of working on something as a group until it’s locked in, I miss the whole experience of weaving music from the very air we breathe. I miss the camaraderie of the ensemble, I miss the intense pleasure of playing a concert, I even miss the painful tedium of a bad rehearsal. I’ve loved it my whole life and I miss it.

Our band’s last concert was March of last year, a week before the world slipped on its axis and dislocated itself. The Before Times. We might be able to return this fall, if everyone is able to get vaccinated and the planets properly align. The teachers will be vaccinated; I’ve had my first dose of the Pfizer and already have the second Fauci Ouchie scheduled for the end of the month. But who knows. Several dozen people gathered together playing wind instruments when there’s a dangerous airborne virus still at large is probably not a great idea for the near future.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. It’s been a long 11 months and I’m yearning for something resembling normal, even as I know that normal is just a setting on the washing machine. I read this draft, written at least two years ago, and all that has been lost and postponed since March 13, 2020 hit hard. I’m hopeful that I’ll get to play in a wind ensemble again soon; it’s long past time to weave beauty from the very air we breathe, together as a group.

One comment

  1. Carol

    Thank you for writing this. I am by no means a musician, but played in a fairly good high school concert and marching band. I’ve tried to explain to my husband what it felt to be part of the group performing, and this nails it exactly!

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