With performances cancelled and the arts at a standstill during coronavirus stay-at-home orders, CapRadio Classical Host Jennifer Reason had a realization: she doesn't miss it.
The strangest thing happened to me this month.
You might immediately think, yeah we noticed. It’s strange every single day, for everyone, we are in the middle of a pandemic! But honestly, who could have anticipated the myriad profound effects of our current situation? For me, the truly-surprising happened: I stopped missing music.
I’ve been a performing artist since early childhood. I’ve devoted my entire life to this craft. I was giving solo performances by age 5 and had a worker’s permit by age 12 so I could do weekly paid gigs. I was studying piano at the university by 16, I’ve traveled the world performing, been in many recordings and films, and founded many still-existing performing ensembles with my friends and wonderful colleagues.
Music — particularly at the piano but also through singing — was my voice where I had no words. My survival, my map to navigate incredibly challenging growing years. I’ve never been without it. I have always called it my dearest friend.
Now, in the pandemic, all my gig work is canceled until September at the very earliest. All of my anticipated trips, gone. All my ensemble’s carefully planned productions, postponed. Life as I have always known it, vanished. We are now living instead with impossible uncertainty surrounding how a life based around live performing will ever get back to normal.
You would expect (I certainly did) that I would be devastated. Immediately overwhelmed with grief, with loss, with missing what has made up the core of my life for decades. But … I wasn’t. I’m not.
I don’t miss music.
It’s almost like stepping into a confessional to admit something like that. It’s a lot of self-identity on the line as well. Who am I even, if maybe I’m not the thing I thought and said I was after all?
So I started asking around, to see how other artists and musicians and creatives are fairing. Surely I couldn’t be the only one in this sort of unanticipated crisis. And it turns out, I most certainly am not alone.
From many deeply respected musical colleagues and friends across the country (and even some overseas), the conversation ‘struck a chord’ if you will (Pun intended!). I got comments like these:
For me, making music is often private. My studio was my sanctuary. I don't want to virtually teach from it. I don't want people to see inside it so I can share music from my private space. The peace that I felt before has gone away (maybe the cause of [my] nightmares?). I love teaching my students, but I don't like invading their spaces either. I liked meeting in neutral places where we could exchange ideas. I feel both isolated & invaded. I don't want to "make new opportunities" & then I hate myself for that. Self-loathing is off the charts.
Overworking, as a musician in the US, is often the only choice to survive. I think that’s where a lot of it is coming from. We have permission to rest.
I understand this a lot, but I've been through this before this pandemic has started. I have life-long depression and have isolated myself a few times and do not create at all. It comes back. But I've learned to not base my entire identity on being a musician from these moments.
Absolutely. I don't even really miss it. I've debated selling off my equipment... except no one needs it now, so I guess I'll wait & see what work comes back.
Music feels like a lover that has left. Like you devoted your whole life and being to this relationship and the other partner just walked away.
And so, so many more. Oh, the beautiful, heartbreaking power of solidarity (The whole, “oh thank goodness, there’s nothing wrong with me” moment). We truly are in this together.
If you’re feeling alone, self-critical or confused like me, reach out. You will be surprised by the outpouring of people standing in the same shoes. And the best part is, you don’t even have to figure anything out. The mutual understanding seems to be enough for now.
I wish I had some concrete answers to wrap this up with, or at least the ability to point confidently in the direction that we should go next. But I don’t, and I can’t, and maybe that’s the lesson and the wisdom here. To just let it be. To let go of the “shoulds,” to let go of old expectations, to embrace the gift of time and space to think and feel, to let go of old identities and discover new, truer things about yourself. To just … let it be.
In other words, I suppose the Beatles had it right this whole time:
And when the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me,
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be,
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.