So there’s been a lot of chatter about diversity (or lack thereof) in Classical Music and Orchestras the past few weeks. Just some examples: Holly Mulcahy’s piece about diversifying orchestra audition excerpts; Eric William Lin’s discussion (with wonderful interactive graphs) of NY Phil’s rep over 175 seasons; Rob Deemer’s unveiling (in a little more formal venue) of the massive database of Women Composers that he and his students have been curating for some time; and, of course, Anne Shreffler’s piece about the Canon’s Invisible Hand which I discussed previously.
In my previous post I discussed how ridiculously easy it would be to avoid the Art of Monstrous Men, and the post before that discusses how to Decolonize the Musical Mind. The past couple of days I’ve come across some interesting pieces about diversity in the arts (or lack thereof). The first was a piece about bringing the art of women, long buried in storage of the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, to light; the second was a piece about how the High Museum in Atlanta tripled its Nonwhite audience in two years by, well, increasing the diversity in its programming, staff, and marketing; and the third is a rebuttal of one of the myths justifying the Great White Canon of Classical Music.
I do a lot of covers. In a sense, I spend most of my musical life doing covers. Playing a Beethoven Symphony? Cover. Playing a 14th century Turkish Mevlevi song? Cover. Playing a piece I wrote? Cover.
“But you’re playing an original tune, not a cover,” you might say. Well, as I’ve been saying for the past couple of decades, “If you’re not improvising in real time, then you’re just covering yourself.” In other words, “Original” music can also be “Cover” music.
As I book out into 2019, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got to this point in my musical life. There’s the received wisdom for most artists in any field that until you make it, you should keep your day job so you can have a solid financial foundation while you work at your art. The downside is, with a day job, you generally have less time to focus on your art which in turn decreases your ability to turn it into a full time career. It’s a delicate balance between having no time to do your art because of the time you put into your day job, as opposed to spending less time at a job (and thus having less financial security) to focus more on the art. The ideal balance is to transition into turning your art into your full-time job.
The risk of that, though, is burn-out.