Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Now, some of that otherhood I promised...

I recently participated with a trio in a masterclass with Kalmen Opperman, a mogul in the clarinet world (he was Richard Stoltzman's teacher). It was really scary. He's 85 and about my height (5 foot-nuthin'). He's not a very constructive or encouraging man. He kept asking me "what the hell are you doing? " and was forever saying things like "did you think that was a crescendo? Didn't I tell you to make a crescendo? What, do you think you're better than I am? What the hell is wrong with you?"

It was really quite shocking to me because of how antithetical his approach was to how we talk to Anna. He also told me that I was incredibly talented and someday I'd graduate to a "proper" teacher (this was after asking me who I had studied with and telling me my mentors were all trash).

See, this man approaches everyone who touches a clarinet like the clarinet is the center of life. He believes that if it is not the center of everything, you have no right to call yourself a musician -- that music is too important and too special to be "professed" by anyone but the very, very elite. I do not agree. I have never fancied myself world class nor do I aspire to anything greater than what I've already achieved. He kept talking about what was going to happen after retirement and in my head, I was laughing because when I retire from the band (assuming I make it that far), I want to take the civil service exam and deliver the mail for a living...I sure as heck don't want to live hand to mouth trying to find work as a clarinet player.

I was remarkably unruffled by the whole experience, though. The man focused entirely on me the whole morning -- over two hours. My breasts were aching and full and I had zero concentration left and he wanted to know why I wasn't asking for more when I finally got up to go home to my baby. Everyone who had witnessed all or part of the morning was concerned -- my phone rang off the hook! I was really very peaceful and had it all in perspective. After just taking everything he threw at me all morning, I finally threw something back -- "I have a 4-month old baby at home who depends on me for food."

My contribution to this world isn't going to be that I was a musician, it's going to be that I was a mother. That, my friends, was a remarkable insight for me, who once told a doctor, "If you can't fix my hands and I can't play the clarinet anymore, just kill me, because there will be nothing left for me, not a single reason to live."

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