Creative Spark

My creative life used to be filled with musical collaborations. While working toward my bachelor’s degree in piano performance, I spent many hours accompanying voice lessons and ensembles.  Playing the piano was my life, but I increasingly began to enjoy working with other musicians.

Those experiences influenced my plans for grad school.  My master’s degree work consisted of constant collaboration with other musicians.  Preparation for recitals with vocalists, brass players, and string players filled my days and nights. Yes, it was challenging. Yes, it was exhausting. But oh was it rewarding!

In my professional life, I’ve also had those satisfying musical moments.  Working as a university staff accompanist, faculty recitals, choral accompanying, opera workshops, etc. continued to keep my creative juices flowing.

Although music continued to be part of my life,  I eventually stepped away from it as my main profession.  Don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets.  My life has been full.  I spent nine precious years as a stay-at-home mom, worked as a special education teacher, and currently, I’m an elementary music teacher.

It has been a long time, a hot minute, as they say these days since I’ve played professionally.  Today I suddenly realized that a part of me has missed it.

I’m in my final week as a rehearsal pianist for the Rose Rock Opera Institute.  It has been a great experience, working with talented young singers and amazing teachers.  One lesson today was extra special.  The music placed in front of me was familiar.  I had played it years before.  Beautiful melodies weaving between voice and piano.

But then I saw those spots.  You know the ones.  The ones that gave me trouble years earlier.  And that fear of making mistakes started to creep in.  Thankfully the teacher had given me and the student a specific spot in the music to place our focus.  We repeated one small, beautiful phrase about ten times before performing the entire piece one final time.  It was amazing.  We listened to each other’s parts, attempting perfect balance.

Was it exhausting? Yes! My brain was in high gear.  Thinking hard about the line, voicing, surprising harmonies-working together to bring a piece of music to life.  And just as this talented young student decided to take a chance, I did the same.  Focused on making music instead of worrying about the wrong notes.

Today a creative spark was reignited.  And for that, I am thankful.

Unpleasant Companion

Today began my summer music job with Rose Rock Opera Institute, bringing an opportunity to do several things I enjoy. Reconnecting with old friends, meeting new people, and most of all-playing piano.  I would be accompanying voice lessons for some amazingly talented young singers.

So why did I wake up several times during the night in a cold sweat?  Why did the day start with a knot in my stomach?  Why was there a veil of fog to push through while getting ready?  That unpleasant companion-anxiety.  Not the old friend with which I wished to reconnect, yet there it was.

As I prepared for the day, my heart racing, there was only one thing to do.  Keep moving, putting one foot in front of the other. Prayers, deep breaths and listening to some James Taylor also helped.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not suggesting anxiety is something you just get over.  I’ve been very honest about my views on medication and its helpfulness.  In this instance however, it was important for me to recognize the anxiety, name it, and brainstorm ways to cope.  Acknowledging its presence was the first step.

Did this unpleasant companion ruin my day?  No.  I did reconnect with old friends, meet new people, and play beautiful music. Although it faded as the day progressed, it did not completely disappear.  Will it still be tagging along when I return to Rose Rock tomorrow?  Possibly.  But it will not keep me from returning.