I used to think that everything I did should serve the clarinet and my musical growth. In addition to practicing unhealthy amounts each day, I would devour books on musicianship and artistry. I agonized about my slow progress from mere clarinetist to musical artist with compelling yet unique interpretations. I would wake up every morning at 5am to practice before class, and I would stay up late to do some score study and learn new repertoire. Even my exercise routine was tailored with lots of cardio to maximize my lung capacity when I played clarinet. I tried to live a lifestyle where everything was related to the clarinet. If I allowed myself a rare break, I would feel guilty for not doing something – anything – to further my progress as an artist.
Then I moved to Paris.
I adopted the French lifestyle of living slowly and savouring the daily pleasures all around me. I would take time to appreciate the taste of buttery croissants, the smell of the medieval rose gardens in Provins, the skyline from Parisian rooftops, and the multitude of other small details I had been missing in my clarinet-induced stupor. I would still practice for several hours each day, but I began making more time to explore, wander, and experience new things. I traveled to different countries and experienced new cultures, and the more I enjoyed experiencing life to the fullest, the more confidence I gained as a musician.
And then a really crazy thing happened – I started to vastly improve as an artist.
You see, I have this theory that the relationship between music and life is symbiotic. Music is a reflection of life, and life is the inspiration for music. So how can any of us truly expect to grow as well-rounded artists with unique worldviews and musical perspectives unless we periodically leave the practice room to explore this amazing world around us?
Whatever your musical goals may be, you should prioritize the cultivation of a rewarding life outside the practice room. Vow to be more open-minded to trying new things, exploring new places, and meeting new people. Take a class you’ve always wanted to try, explore a new part of town, visit a different country, read a new genre of book, say hello to someone new, change your daily routine – live life more adventurously and reap both the personal and musical rewards.
You are the music you create, but you are also more than just music. You are multi-faceted and shifting personalities, with the possibility of reinvention every day. Practice hard and take advantage of every opportunity you can to grow as a musician, but don’t lose sight of all the incredible things waiting to be discovered outside the practice room.