Friday, December 31

Why practice?

This is probably the most fundamental question to the amateur: why practice, why play at all?

There are people like myself who were once very decent players, but who have stopped for years and now face a steep uphill battle to regain what we once were able to do. People ask me if I play in groups and/or if I have any concerts coming up. Well, no I don't. So then, why practice? Why go through the frustration and difficult task of re-acquiring the skills of the oboe when what I hear coming out of my instrument is less than unsatisfactory?

The word "amateur" comes from Italian and means someone who loves. Unfortunately, in English and French, it is often associated with someone who is not really serious, “unprofessional”. This is wrong, the word "amateur" should only be applied when one is really serious about something: one loves the task and therefore no pains are too great.This is how I feel about performance. This is why I practice: I cannot imagine stopping.

But, owing to the likes of Albrecht Mayer, Cynthia Steljes, Christoph Hartmann, John Abberger, Bart Schneeman and so many others, why bother trying? Surely I cannot even begin to aim for what they are currently doing so well, so who am I to pretend to be an oboist in the face of such mastery? I have no answer to that. I play because that’s what I do, end of story.

Maybe I will play again with a group, maybe not. Maybe I will play on stage again, maybe not. Maybe I will make a You-Tube video only to be ridiculed and know that the critics are right..... but maybe something unexpected, and sorely wanted, will occur.

This is why we practice.

May the year 2011 bring us all lots of opportunities to practice and play for for well receiving audiences; may Providence grant us the purpose and nurture us on our way!


Anonymous said...

Oboist Richard Woodhams--Principal Oboe of the Philadelphia Orchestra and my teacher--said something once in a lesson that I have remembered and have tried to live and work by as a professional musician. I don't remember his exact wording, but he said something to the effect that he aspires to always play the oboe with the skill and refinement of a professional while keeping the enthusiasm of an amateur.

Keep practicing!

Susan Spector, Second Oboe
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

RobinDesHautbois said...

Owing to the historical importance of Woodhams (and the enduring importance of the Met!) I really appreciate your comment! A real encouragment!

Paulo S. said...

One thing that I've been doing recently to help me stay motivated and keep up with the practice (in addition to my natural disposition) is to sit in in the weekly oboe studio workshops at my university (U. of Arizona). Neil Tatman, the oboe instructor, was very nice in letting me participate in his group classes, and he has been very supportive of me taking up the oboe after so many years without playing. I've only participated for one semester, but from this experience, I was able to play in the oboe students' recital (an informal event), and recently I received an invitation to play in a woodwind quintet with other music students (let's see if it will happen as the new semester starts...).

As Susan said, let's keep practicing!

RobinDesHautbois said...

Interesting.... Ottawa has 2 universities and a very important community college. The universities have music programs, but they are so low-key that they are not even faculties. You make a good point about getting in touch, just in case. I'll do that after I get my endurance up a bit.

Thanks for the hint!