Musical Gratitude

SLS Nadeau painting

It’s Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S., a tradition where Americans express gratitude for what we have in our lives.  For musicians, our “musical thanks” often lead to a specific instrument, talent or to the music of certain composers.  Some of us even express thanks for Music itself, something that has definitely shaped our lives, personalities and outlook.

I’d like to add one more that is often left off musician’s lists: Gratitude for our fellow musicians.  Music is essentially a community activity.  No one learns, creates, or performs in a vacuum.  We have all had teachers, peers, mentors and colleagues.  We interact and learn from each other.  It’s a great time to remember how closely we are all connected.

Think for a moment about a symphony orchestra.  I certainly do, as I am the only person on the stage that doesn’t make a sound (extraneous grunting aside).  I rely on each and every musician in the orchestra to play the notes.  Everyone has a job to do, and they are remarkably adept at it.  They are all great partners in a sonic adventure; one we ultimately undertake for an audience (oh, thanks to audiences, as well).

Within each of our musical offerings, we have so many connections. It is truly mind-boggling.  The viola player may not think often of a horn player, but that well-played solo line may set the mood for a memorable performance.  Similarly, the control and artistry of a timpani player can help the pulse and excitement of an entire ensemble.  By the way, that stand partner just turned your page for you, too.

When thinking deeper into the past, it goes far beyond our thanks to a particular composer who wrote a great piece.  What about the copyist who labored over the manuscript, the publisher who provided your copy, the musicologist who discovered new insights, the critic who keep the piece alive in the repertoire by extolling it’s virtues to the masses…And that’s just the beginning!

So this Thanksgiving weekend, I am feeling tremendous gratitude for my many musical partners, known and unknown, who help on the journey.  It is a great meditation on a musical career and life.

Copyright, 2012 Robert Baldwin

(Photo is the genesis of a painting by artist Josée Nadeau, depicting the Salt Lake Symphony in performance, painted live on stage during a concert).

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