5 Ways Musicians Can Evolve During Our Changing Times

Organization of a musician

We musicians can play fermatas, but can we live during (or within) one?

By Ava Harmon ‘21

In many ways, this time of transition and change is a blank slate. We, as citizens of the world and as lovers of music, have the opportunity to reset—to live in one of life’s fermatas.

This concept may sound idealistic—perfect even. So, you’re probably asking me: how do you do this? How do you continue growing as a musician and reset as a person at a time like this? Well, folks, I don’t have any concrete answers but I do have a few ideas of how to start making positive life changes at home.

Find a routine.
I, like many musicians at the conservatory, am used to scheduling my life in a planner to get everything done. I didn’t notice just how much my life revolved around my planner until I didn’t use one. My thought process was: “If my life isn’t as full, why would I need a planner?” Even though my days aren’t nearly as packed as they used to be, I started using my planner again. Organizing my time even just a bit has given me the direction and purpose I needed. I didn’t expect it, however, to make my new reality feel more comfortable. Whether you plan your entire day out hour by hour, or simply give yourself a short list of daily to-do’s, you may have the same realization I did. If you would like to start planning your day out but don’t have a planner of your own, I’ve got your back. Here’s a simple downloadable one I’ve made.

Have you ever listened—I mean, really truly listened to an entire album start to finish? Now, before I get carried away, I have to give credit to my colleague Julian Archer ‘21 for this idea. In his Youtube video “Honesty in Music,” Julian talks about taking in music with purpose. Think for a moment about your music listening habits. Do you listen to music on public transportation? Do you like studying or working with a bit of music in the background? Do you ever sit down, close your eyes, and just listen? I certainly didn’t before watching Julian’s video. It even made me think: If I am not listening, then what am I hearing, really? I encourage you to try this; let yourself remember why you love artists and their creations in the first place. After putting this into my weekly routine, I’ve found this practice to be one of the most impactful ways in which my musicianship is improved.

Learn something new.
Since most of us are spending the majority of the day indoors, it’s important to keep our curiosity alive. View a Ted-Talk, read a book, take a virtual tour of a museum you’ve always wanted to visit or watch a documentary about something you haven’t been able to explore. The things we musicians learn outside of the practice room—the lives we are exposed to and those we live—deeply impact how and why we create art. I’ve been reading a lot within these past two weeks. From Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, to Leonard Nelson’s System of Ethics to Plato’s Republic, and now Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I love living in other people’s worlds—the ones they’ve created or the real paths they’ve traveled—but beyond that, I love that my perspective is ever-changing and evolving. So, I encourage you to take yourself out of your current space. Find ways to discover, learn, and live more creatively as this time is an opportunity to see the world differently—a chance for us to discover (or rediscover) who we are by creating, living, and working intentionally.

Create social(ish) spaces.
Staying social during a period of social distancing is, or can be, tricky. I’ve found ways, as I hope you all have, to work around this. Have a coffee or some lunch with a friend over video chat. Talk to a friend whilst you both are taking separate nature walks (if you’re not under an official quarantine restriction). Have a Netflix Watch Party, spa evening, or random dance party with friends over Zoom. You can be as social as you’d like, you just have to be creative!

Take some time for yourself!
With everything that’s going on—and things changing drastically day by day—it’s important to prioritize yourself. It’s easy for us musicians to forget to do this because simply put, we are busy people! It’s difficult to eat, complete homework, sleep, practice, attend class, get to the gym, and go to work, let alone carving out time for self-care. So, now is your time to shine! Break out that new cookbook you got for your birthday. Start up that hobby you’ve never had time to begin. Dye your hair the color you’ve always wanted to try; chances are that the grocer will be the only one who sees it if it ends up going south. However it manifests, make yourself a priority.

Well, that’s all I have for now. I hope that you stay healthy and take the time to experience this life fermata however you choose. Remember, we may not be able to control the current events, but we can control our own realities. May you spend your days doing the things that enrich your musicianship and soul, and in the meantime, you can find me reading in my armchair and drinking all of the coffee.

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