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The Personality of a Musician - A Deeper Look

The Sensible Flutist: The Personality of a Musician - A Deeper Look

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Personality of a Musician - A Deeper Look

“Being academically and musically correct, yet having a distinct personality is the goal. Difficult, but possible. Too many lose the personality.”

The other day, one of my former teachers Patricia George with whom I studied with in the summer of 2002 at the Sewanee Summer Music Festival and again in 2003 at a masterclass, posted on Facebook the very succinct and accurate statement above. The general consensus from the responses to this statement was one of teaching students to think for themselves, to make their own choices before letting another’s influence them. I interpreted this more deeply: you cannot strike your own way as a musician unless you have personality. You have to have the confidence and courage to make your own way.

Without education, there is no chance of success as a classical musician. There is continuous discussion on whether one has “it” and whether that increases their chances for success. As someone who has worked really hard to become a flute player and a musician, I don’t think I have “it” but those of us less fortunate but still have talent can still find our personality and make smart choices in the music we share.

Personality will make you stand out from the crowd. There are SO many flute players in today’s world with the same dreams that finding a niche is essential. For some, it seems to happen overnight and for others, it takes years. To make that niche-finding process easier, not worrying about what others think and owning the music will help get you there faster.

One of the thoughts I’ve had about regarding my own playing is how I tend to lose myself when attempting to perform under the auspices of a teacher’s interpretation. I’ve studied with wonderful teachers, and their playing inspires me; however, I have to be confident of my abilities in the here and now to play with those influences while adding my own flair. How liberating would the experience be if you injected your own personality into the music and play freely? This is the exact reason we all go to college as music majors. Knowledge is power, and that knowledge frees us to play musically. Musical playing is not often heard among us flute players, and that philosophical point is a topic for another day.

Great teachers prepare their students to find and develop their own personality that will lead to future success. Approach the flute with a good, mindful work ethic and musicality will fall into place. I think Mrs. George’s statement falls into the realm of social commentary. Within the public schools, so much emphasis is placed on standardized testing that today’s young students are not able to think for themselves and explore what interests them in the name of bureaucratic “standards.” Developing a musical personality draws upon what you know and have experienced. Take chances and if you turn out to be wrong, accept your mistake and move on. We are human, we make mistakes, but the successful musician will learn from those mistakes and become successful.

While I’m taking my break between degrees, I’m learning things in my own research and exploration that I wouldn’t have grasped if I had immediately entered grad school. My intent during my undergraduate years was to learn, to become better, and to utilize my knowledge and experience as a budding professional musician. Musicians are a highly educated group of people, but how many have personality? To be musical, you must be personally committed and totally convinced of your skills. Forget the technical aspects, just play and let your personality shine through.

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At July 31, 2010 at 12:17 PM , Blogger Erica Ann Sipes said...

Fantastic, fantastic post, Alexis! And brava for being brave and deciding to step away from the academic world for a while. Ironically, by doing that, I think you'll be getting a much more complete education because you are taking time to revisit who you are, what you want, what you believe in instead of just seeking those answers in someone else. When you do go back to school, if you do, you'll have questions you want answered which again, will lead to the more complete education.

Can't wait to hear more from you!


At July 31, 2010 at 1:34 PM , Blogger The Sensible Flutist said...

Thanks for the encouragement and going back so far to read this post. It's always difficult to get thrown back among peers that don't comprehend the choice that I made; however, it makes me stand out.

It would do all musicians some good to go out and live a while rather than hole away in a practice room and classroom for years.


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