by Nathan Heath '19
Without some degree of joy, music can become little more than a chore — tedious at best, alienating at worst. When that happens, you find music’s purpose is inverted: it begins to take from you more than it adds. The goal, as artists mature, is to find that creative balance at which which they can explore their areas of strength and confront their areas of weakness without falling into stagnant ruts.
I offer what has been the most rewarding solution: betray the style you’ve come to know best.
I was raised as a classical musician, and only when I dove into commercial (non-classical) violin did I start to really enjoy my instrument. I had stumbled into a place familiar to many young musicians: a rut. Sight-reading pieces, practicing for hours, suffering through orchestra rehearsals — I was mindlessly going through the motions. I didn’t hate it, but I definitely didn’t enjoy it; there was nothing new to keep me on my toes, and I felt I was only growing as much as the next classical piece I tackled. My mentors wouldn’t take an eight-year-old’s crap: they promptly tossed a kid who could barely swim into the deep end, introducing me to bluegrass, jazz, Celtic, blues, swing. Immediately, the landscape changed — and my instrument with it.
Crossing genres introduces you to people and experiences that’ll shape you for life. (It’s not a platitude, I promise). In classical music, my main community was an orchestra and some mentors. When I dove into commercial music, though, I met the rural backwoods fiddler, the traveling jam-band, the gypsy with her wrinkly accordion, those delightfully noisy Irish pubs, the jazz hall-of-famer, the wise old lounge-lizard with his syrupy blues numbers, the Kenyan craftsman with his rugged piano and colorful dreams. You will also touch corners of the Close community full of immeasurable, untapped richness. So go ahead — tap. Joy will issue forth.