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When is enough enough?

The Sensible Flutist: When is enough enough?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When is enough enough?

Graduation Day
I've spent the past three years finding my way. In the five years since college, I spent the first two years as a burned out musician in a full time day job, and the following three as an evolving musical masterpiece. When I started this blog in 2010, I had resumed serious playing and teaching to facilitate a return to school for a master's degree in flute. Boy, have things changed.

I'm still hopelessly addicted to music. I have really made strides in successfully overcoming the psychological and physiological effects of performance anxiety which reared its ugly head as a result of my hiatus. The pieces of the puzzle are coming together more fully for me and in a way that has been making me incredibly happy. I don't want to be known as just a flutist. My life has always indicated otherwise. It was when I stopped pushing forward in what I thought I should be doing was when I realized what I was meant to be doing.

Through this evolution and my incessant curiosity, I find myself questioning academia more and more. I admire and respect all my colleagues who have struck out on their own with only a bachelor's degree in music. While opportunities to perform and teach are limited with just this level of education, the real world experience gained is instrumental in shaping future life decisions. If you choose to stay in school and further your education to include graduate and post-graduate work, you could essentially be living in cloistered academic conditions for a period of upwards of 25 years before you even enter what I consider to be the real world.

When I think about these numbers, I cringe. How many talented musicians stay in school simply because it's what they're told they should be doing? If I had stayed in school to obtain my master's degree, I would have continued on my idealistic, naive path of dreaming of nothing more than playing the flute full time. This would have changed my path dramatically. Chances are I'd have wound up working a miserable day job anyway. The promise of returning to school was what ultimately drew me out of my burned out funk. What if I had already obtained that and then entered the workforce like a dejected nobody?

Perhaps it's the transitional times we live in where I'm growing increasingly distrustful of all large organizations whether it's a corporation or government bureaucracy. Academia is no different. I don't think academic institutions have students' interests at heart. There's too many other competing factors (hello, money!), and this is a reality that many don't think about. I am speaking from a purely institutional perspective. On an individual level, I know many professors who are aware of the realities of the outside world and are honest with their students. We need more faculty members like that.

I wouldn't give up these past 5 years of my life for anything. I've never done things the normal way. While I may have resented it at the time, I'm grateful for it now. When do the hordes of talented musicians making their way through loads of degrees say "enough is enough!" and find the courage to strike out on their own? I want my life to be an example to those who may be questioning their path. Anything is possible.

We are creatives. We have the ability to be free thinkers. If years of schooling is what you feel you need, then that's OK but think about the life waiting for you beyond the academic confines. What possibilities exist for you as you are? The beauty of life is our freedom to choose, even if it's the path less traveled.

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At May 29, 2012 at 8:09 AM , Blogger Olya said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences. These are not unique to music world, though it's more difficult to find a job. I once dated this guy who was getting his PhD in management, and the realities are very much the same. People who come out of college have never tasted the real world. They become teachers and what they teach seem to be very far removed from the demands of real life yet the teachers themselves don't know any better. They went from students to teachers and never worked a job. It's wonderful how God molded you into a person you are today through your experiences. You have a purpose now.
Having said that, I do wish I could go get a music degree. Not that a piece of paper that states you graduated from college makes you better musician, it's those intense years of training that I want. I am sure it's possible to have that without the piece of paper, after all it's all in our hands, right?

At May 29, 2012 at 8:31 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Real creativity is about putting the pieces together ... your pieces ... into what works for you. Good for you!

At May 29, 2012 at 9:06 AM , Blogger The Sensible Flutist said...

Thank you for your kind words. I agree completely. Creativity is turning something ordinary into uniqueness. While education gives us structure, it's up to us what we do with it.

At May 29, 2012 at 9:09 AM , Blogger The Sensible Flutist said...

Thanks, Olya! Yes, academia is its own world. When I step on a college campus now, it feels totally foreign to me. It'll be interesting to return as a student as I pursue PT.

Never say never on a dream of a music degree. Even if it isn't a degree, the power of the internet can allow you to obtain this level of study on your own. That's another challenge to the institution. MIT and Harvard are offering up free courses online now. It doesn't cost them anything to do this, and it empowers people to continue their education.

At May 29, 2012 at 10:16 AM , Blogger Erica Ann Sipes said...

What a perfect photo for this blogpost, Alexis. And brava for stepping out on a limb and stating what you are thinking about where you find yourself now as an individual and as a musician. I think you know where I stand so I don't need to get on by soap-box yet again. But I do want to reaffirm my status as a cheerleader of yours! So go, Alexis! There are so many wonderful ideas within you that don't have much to do with any academic institution - it's all you! Embrace them, run with them, and let's watch them bloom into something fabulous.

All the best,

At May 29, 2012 at 6:43 PM , Blogger The Sensible Flutist said...

Erica, thank you so much for your kind words and support. As always, they mean the world to me :)


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