Since I started my playing job, I’ve been mostly removed from music schools and teachers. The nature of my work, (both in my day job for the military band and as a horn and electronic soloist) has been quite solitary. I’ve had an opportunity to truly be by myself as a horn player and do exploration to find out what works, and what doesn’t. This is so different from the environment that you find at a music school! Music school is an amazing collaborative place where everyone has opportunities to talk and learn with each other. That can be a stunningly helpful culture. It can also be confusing, disorienting, and misleading. As the melting pot of opinions churns, it’s easy to get swept up.
The performance world, both arts and sports, is full of takes. Some folks may have a hot take on a new piece of equipment that looks funny, and immediately say that players shouldn’t be using that equipment. Some musicians may have icy cold takes of having done the same routine for 10 years, never budging, because they believe that its the best way to get started in a day.
Rest is a polarizing topic. I went to school with a number of players who advocate that brass players play every day without fail. Any lapse in daily work will begin deterioration in one’s playing ability that will quickly be noticed by peers, supervisors, or the audience. I also read stories about one of the section players for the Berlin Philharmonic who takes the entire summer season completely off of the horn! The topic can be viewed at the macro level, like I just mentioned with taking a summer off, or at the micro level, such as advocating that a player rests one day a week, or for an hour after the warmup.
I haven’t found an easy way to find clarity in the music school or alone after I’ve graduated. It can be terribly frightening to consider making a change to something that you’ve been doing for a long time. I’ve decided to begin a two week (really 17 day) rest period mostly away from the horn, because I think that I can use the space to approach the horn with vigor and clarity as I head into a busy second half of the year. I’m reflecting on how I’m the boss of my own playing and why I feel confident to take the time off and be ready to play when I return. How do you stay the course and not get rattled by external input, even if it’s not about rest?
Generally, I’ve learned that sports, music making, and many other activities aren’t fields of extremes, they are fields of moderation and tweaking. Sure, a change made to a routine can feel huge to your perspective because you’re driving the bus. I’ve found that folks who are very ingrained in what they think tend to attach severe consequences to the topic.
Rest is critical and must always be enforced for 1 day per week else you’ll burn out and lose your job and DIE
If you take one day off the horn everyone will notice and you’ll lose your job and DIE
I’ve tried resting, and I’ve spent entire years never taking a day off. They’re both pretty ok, and I’ve elected to take some rest this year. Maybe I won’t next year. Who knows? As you go about your musical or artistic career, I encourage you to ask the “What if” behind the opinions surrounding you and try to stay open minded. Sure, there are some things everyone can agree on (Don’t deliberately sunburn your lips before a recital)- but most of the time, you know what’s best or you can find out with some tinkering on your own. Slight changes to my routine or habits haven’t ruined my life or career yet. I imagine that they won’t ruin yours….. results may vary!
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