Way back in the day, some twenty-odd years ago, when I was a serious flute student, I took masterclasses with an amazing flutist. Masterclasses, for those who don’t know, are essentially lessons in front of a room full of other musicians. They can be intimidating as hell; you are musically naked in front of God and the whole world…and a bunch of critically-minded fellow musicians. You play and are critiqued and play again and try to improve and play again and attempt that one strange thing he suggested and holy heck it worked, lather/rinse/repeat. The thing is, you asked for this and probably paid some serious coin for the privilege. In my case it was two weeks of masterclasses and practicing and music and it was heaven.
This particular flutist was…is…truly inspirational. I loved how he taught; he was the first person to comment to me that, yes, the piece you’re working on is very difficult and why again did you think you had poor finger technique, as you’re obviously quite good at it? (Dear teachers of all sorts, you never know when an offhand comment will change a person’s life, for better or worse; that one comment changed my flute playing and outlook forever.) He focused on the positive; there was something good on which to build, always. This is something I take into the lessons I teach to this day.
But what really stood out to me about this man was that he played every single concert by memory. Or, as he put it, from the heart. For when something is in inside you, is part of your very being, it comes from the heart, and music in front of you only gets in the way of what you are trying to say.
From the heart. I love his take on this, always have. Because he’s right. When something is part of your very soul, anything between you and the expression of it only gets in the way. I try to live this way, but life often makes it difficult and painful and tiresome.
I wish more people lived from the heart. It makes us more authentically human, to stand up in front of the world, with nothing between us and what we’re trying to express. It isn’t easy, but like most things in life, it’s worth it.