The Joys of Summer

By: Edna Landau To ask a question, please write Ask Edna. Since this will be my final Ask Edna blog post of the season, I thought it might be appropriate to offer some suggestions regarding how young musicians might want to use any extra time they might have over the summer. I contacted a number of good friends and colleagues to solicit their recommendations and am very grateful to them for their generous responses. They have inspired me to broaden my own horizons this summer as many of their suggestions have universal appeal. Before sharing their recommendations, I would like to say that there is nothing wrong with taking the summer off (if we are lucky enough to be able to do that) and thoroughly enjoying the free time, as well as the absence of a rigorous schedule that can sometimes prove stressful during the rest of the year. I came across an insightful article by best-selling author Mitch Albom called The Joys of Summer in which he discusses the increasing amount of activity in which young people are engaged year-round. He writes: “We need to lighten it up. Sometimes doing nothing is doing something.” I can certainly relate to that. Still, the summer can be a great time for attending performances in genres other than one’s area of concentration; trying out potential collaborators for a future chamber ensemble; listening to unfamiliar music with an eye toward expanding one’s repertoire; having coffee with individuals who might offer career advice, both in the arts and in business; exploring opportunities for future outreach or charitable endeavors; visiting museums and galleries, or watching legendary performances and master classes on YouTube. Janet Rarick, Associate Professor of Music Career Development at the Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, adds the following to this list: “Write to your extended family, former teachers and fans who have a special interest in you, updating them on your recent musical activities. If you are home for the summer, organize and perform a program in a church, school or retirement home. It might serve as a useful run-through of repertoire you are planning to perform in the coming season.” Sedgwick Clark, editor of the Musical America International Directory of the Performing Arts, advises: “Go to concerts. Years ago I spent the summer in Aspen, covering the music festival for Musical America. I was perplexed by the low attendance at the many weekday student concerts, especially those featuring contemporary music. ‘They are practicing and studying’, I was told. But that’s not all there is to an education. Hear what your peers are thinking. Soak up the wisdom of the veterans. The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) plays ten concerts at Mostly Mozart in August. Marlboro is always invigorating as young players tackle the old masters, not to mention Tanglewood’s wonderful offerings. And that’s just the Northeast. Go to a concert!” I am happy to share my colleagues’ suggestions for summer reading: Janet Rarick:  Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch. A free copy can be downloaded at Angela Beeching, founder of Beyond Talent Consulting: Lewis Hyde’s The Gift; Steve Jobs, the biography by Walter Isaacson; Arlene Goldbard’s The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists & The Future Nathaniel Zeisler, Director of Community Engagement and Adult Education at the Colburn School: A Whole New Mind – Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, by Daniel Pink. “This book is now about six years old but it provides a great framework for us as we consider the role of the artist in the 21st century economy. Fun, easy read!” Live First, Work Second, by Rebecca Ryan. “This book was written just before the economic downturn and is more about economic development, but artists can glean a lot from it. Also a quick, fun read.” Mary Kinder Loiselle, Director of Community Engagement & Career Development Services at the Curtis Institute of Music: The Art of Possibility, by Ben and Roz Zander. “It’s been around for quite a while but I find the exploration of living from a place of possibility to be continually inspiring.” Your Work, Your Life, Your Way, by career coach Julie Cohen. There is also a companion workbook: The Seven Keys Workbook and Journal. “I have found these books to be among the best I’ve seen in my thirteen years of coaching. They’re very clear, practical and full of focused content and exercises. I’m thinking that your readers might find them a valuable way to refresh and refocus over the summer months.” Jeffrey Kahane, pianist, and Music Director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: “No musical education is complete without having read The Magic Mountain and Doktor Faustus by Thomas Mann, in the recent translations by John Woods. Either one is enough to take up a summer or a good part of it. Doktor Faustus has some of the greatest writing about music ever, and Mann himself said that he conceived of The Magic Mountain as being constructed like a massive symphony. They both require intense concentration and slow, careful reading but are worth every minute; and in many ways, for all their profundity, they are also entertaining and sometimes hilarious.” Emanuel Ax, pianist and venerated teacher: “Christoph Wolff has written a new book on Mozart’s last years, Mozart at the Gateway to his Fortune, that I really like. Also, Alex Ross’s The Rest is Noise remains a must read. Melinda Bargreen, longtime Seattle music critic: “One book I particularly like is Paul Elie’s 2012 Reinventing Bach, which I think is especially appropriate for young musicians because Elie discusses how musicians have reinterpreted Bach in new ways (and on new instruments) over time and also provides marvelous anecdotal and background material on Bach and those many interpreters.” And for your video enjoyment and inspiration: Bärli Nugent writes: “I believe that each and every young artist has a voice and a core of certainty about who they are that can sometimes become buried under a blizzard of other people’s voices and ideas. They should spend some summer time exploring the power that lies within. To this end, I suggest they watch the 1957 black and white film Twelve Angry Men, starring Henry Fonda, in which one juror in a murder trial sees things differently from the others. I also recommend a seven minute video, brought to my attention by the extraordinary Jane Kosminsky of Juilliard’s dance faculty: Watch this in a quiet moment and stay until the end.” Angela Beeching: “I LOVED this Barbara Cook master class at the New York Public Library: I hope that our readers will write in with additional suggestions, and would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your loyalty over the past two and a half years, as well as wish you a most enjoyable and fulfilling summer. I look forward to joining you again in the fall. To ask a question, please write Ask Edna. © Edna Landau 2013

Comments are closed.