About 4 years ago, I had a boyfriend that changed my life.
He thought that I should not be going into schools to engage students musically; "They would get more out of learning to better use computers with that 45 minutes a week. Then they would have a marketable skill."
At the time, I responded with obscenities and hurt feelings; now, I can clearly articulate exactly why music is important...
Math, language, problem solving skills, study skills, teamwork, persistence and diligence, emotional capability, patience, ability to learn to appreciate something you previously did not understand...
(Think about that last one for a minute: how many of us are truly open to discovering/ understanding/ appreciating that which is completely foreign? It's hard; but, exploring music helps us figure out how to break down those barriers. Example: I used to hate Bruckner. And now, well... I still don't really like Bruckner, but I do appreciate it. I understand why it's good music, and every once in a while, I'll even choose to listen to it. Those sorts of experiences of being able to see past an initial lack of understanding will absolutely lead to openness in daily life, no matter the subject.)
...all these things are improved by the studying music. I could make a bullet-pointed list with sub-categories and footnotes and graphs and everything else; sometimes I want to do that and email him, just because thinking about the conversation still pisses me off.
But ultimately, I'm glad I had that mess of a relationship, and I'm glad he voiced his opinions.
Because... there is also truth to what he said, and I think about it often. As musicians, we really should think about relevance. Not everyone has to set out to change the world, but we should think about how we can be conscious members of society. At the very least, there are selfish reasons - if we're not relevant, we won't exist. More importantly though, we should think about how we can use our art to give to world. In Yo-Yo Ma's terminology*, it is not enough to be an artist - we have to figure out how to best be Citizen Musicians. (*Watch Yo-Yo Ma's "Art for Life's Sake" Speech. It's truly life-changing.)
And so, what is playing the flute in a practice room going to do? Not much. But, all that time I spent practicing has since produced a skill that enables me to share... as a musician, a teacher, and more recently, as an entrepreneur. Putting those three aspects of musicianship together, I've found, has created a career path that makes me excited and hopeful - not just for what I expect to do, but because I know it means so many future musicians will have those same hopes and opportunities.
Still, I struggle with wondering if I'm doing enough. I want to do the things I do well (god, I really want those students to be getting more from my classes than they would from a computer class); I want time to improve myself; I think I can still be a better flute player and teacher, and I know I can learn more as an arts entrepreneur.
There isn't enough time, and the hardest part for me has been giving up on something that just isn't working; the stubbornness in me wants to keep pushing until I fix it... but sometimes things just aren't a good fit, and you move on. [Insert obvious analogy about relationships.]
I don't think I've found my final answer yet... but I know that the past 4 years have brought a lot of positive changes to my life. Pikes Falls Chamber Music, Inscape, The Philadelphia Orchestra's School Partnership Program, Project 440... Within each, I get to use different parts of my musicianship to share with communities that are important to me. As my career twists with these various groups, I will continue to build skill sets, and I will be cognizant of my purpose within each organization. And, I also know that all of this work will lead me to find exactly what it is that will create my best version of a Citizen Musician.