On Activity

Active 1
After the Madison Mini Marathon in August, 2014.

Be Active.

Today the school that I teach at part-time is closed, due to severe cold temperatures. Many schools and other places will be closed multiple days this week, for record cold temps. What a great time to write on getting out and being active! It’s the second term from my carriage acronym.

“Being active” can mean a variety of things. This is perfect, really, because I mean for it to be taken in different ways.

I personally think it is really important for musicians to be well-rounded. Get out, get involved, in fields beyond just music. It’s too easy to stay in our bubble, so to speak. There is a world around us, and if we don’t experience it, we may end up with a skewed perception of reality. It is pretty easy to find a club to join, a place to volunteer with, etc. Different organizations require different levels of time commitment. It doesn’t have to be a lot.

Being active can also mean networking. Often being a musician can feel like a solitary field of work. You’re practicing on your own. You’re teaching on your own. Your admin time is solo. Playing in ensembles is about as close to having work colleagues as we might get. Joining a professional music club is one way to check in with others doing similar things. Another way is to attend workshops, get to know other teachers, and ask questions of them. Stay current on trends in your field. Your clients will appreciate it – and in the end, so will your bank account!

Lastly, being active physically is crucial to being – and staying – a good musician. We are using and in many cases over-using our bodies in ways that most people couldn’t imagine (i.e. a few years ago I was in the hospital for a hernia repair surgery due to lack of abdominal support as I was playing my horn). Strengthening the muscles that we are using regularly is important, but also just plain feeling good physically is necessary if we are going to perform well.

The photo alongside this post is of me (yes, I’ve got some tattoos) from a few years back, when I’d been doing a lot of running. Not long after this picture was taken, I went through a number of surgeries – including the aforementioned hernia repair. A year of physical therapy followed. It’s all quite a long story, which I won’t go into now.

What I have learned, now that it’s all behind me, is that I’ve gotten out of shape since then. It has really affected me as a musician, unfortunately. I get exhausted from playing both piano and horn more easily; I’m not always mentally focused, and muscles get sore very fast. Some of this is bound to happen with age, yes, but much of it can be dealt with. Being a musician is very physically demanding!

This year I’ve signed myself up for some big bike and run challenges, so as to get me motivated to return to prime physical shape, and be active again. I’ll post periodic updates on how that’s going, here on this blog.

Activity is also great fuel for inspiration – another reason I look forward to getting out of this mess of ridiculously cold weather! Staying indoors can lead to a certain amount of productivity (catching up on those home projects), but man… do I get the best ideas when I’m out for a long walk with the dogs.

OK, Mother Nature. I’m ready to amp up my activity level. Now, will you help me out on your end, please? 😉