Last night, I went to have dinner with some friends of mine. Both professional musicians, both in their fifties. Unlike so many other musicians I know, they are both still really engaged with being musicians. They still want to share music with others – by performing, teaching, coaching and listening. I find them both incredibly inspiring. They are also both really normal. They have other interests. Their feet are well and truly on the ground – and their heads are…. well, where they should be. Not up anything, as the saying goes.
On the way there I was reflecting about these two, and how much I respect them both. And they are the sort of players where their goal is simply to share music. They walk on stage and seem to say to their audience (without saying it out loud, of course) “Look! We have found this piece of music! It’s just wonderful. We’ll play it to you the best we can – and hopefully you’ll think it’s really wonderful too…. Have a listen.” There is a real ego-less way of being and playing.
Then there are other sorts of performers. They walk on stage and say “Look! Look at me! Listen to how I play this! I’m great! You should notice me!”. And they fill their conversations with their friends and colleagues about how they were noticed the other day, or should have been noticed by others, or how well their CD sales are, or how much they have been played on the radio.
The second sort of musicians are often far more successful. They have the names that you would know, if you were not in ‘the business’. I find them phonies (thanks Holden Caulfield). I try to be around them as little as possible. And sometimes, these known names are not like the second type of performer. But, in my opinion (and after all, this is only my opinion), not so much.
I really believe that performing is not about fame. It is not about being noticed. It is about sharing. And for the sort of performer who doesn’t even write their own music, it is about me even less. It is about Bach, or Bloch, or whoever. It isn’t about adulation, or travel, or being noticed. It is simply about taking dots on the page, and turning them into something that makes others smile, or cry, or remember that wonderful day and how they felt.
I hope, when I am in my fifties and beyond, that I am like these two people.