A student called his former piano teacher to help him fulfill an academic requirement. He was tasked to interview a musician and so the first person he thought of was his piano teacher. The teacher who was once actively teaching and holding concerts and recitals several times in a year decided to push that performance career to the back seat to live a life of recluse for a few years. After the interview, what he got was more than just data and statistics. These personal insights may be useful especially to those who are thinking of pursuing a career as a musician. This was the actual interview manuscript.
Among musicians, who do you admire?
“To be honest, it’s quite surreal to admire someone you have not met, such as those great composers who have passed away. So, practically speaking, I admire my mentors the most, for I have seen how they live as professional musicians and I have simultaneously experienced living and learning music from them.
Other musicians I admire include Claude Debussy, Bela Bartok, and Chick Corea. I find their music innovations inspiring.”
What do you like most about performing?
“It is the act of bringing joy to the listeners, transporting them from the mundane reality to a slightly different plane or dimension through music – that is what I like most about creating and performing music. For us musicians, it is an act of service to humanity.”
What are the challenges you encounter as a musician?
“In most countries, especially in third world countries, one of the main challenges musicians face is the under-compensation of artists. If you are a musician in the Philippines, for example, more often than not, you are underpaid or the services are under priced. This situation forces many local musicians to go find greener pastures elsewhere or just shift to another career rather than focusing on creating great music. Yes, I am among the financially challenged musicians (in our country’s standards); and if I have the opportunity to leave the country in order to give my family a better life and at the same time develop my music talent to the fullest, I would. But I would still remain a musician.”
What advice can you give for aspiring musicians?
“Being a musician is not an easy career to pursue. But then again, what is easy in this world anyway? It is a big service to society if you pursue something which you really love and something which you are willing to sacrifice for. You will become a more productive citizen that way.
“I always advise my students who plan to pursue a music degree to hold the thought, think it over a thousand times, and if their parents have other plans for their college education, follow their parents’ wishes first. If after that degree and they still feel strongly about taking formal music training, then by all means do so but make sure they are not a burden to the family or to society. By then they are more mature and can handle the challenges better. Age is not an issue. Musician careers do not expire as quickly as other careers.”
This is not an uncommon case for many musicians who seem to allow their performing career to go on a standstill. When passion for a craft is challenged by life’s bitter realities, the choice is to survive. Though the flame may not burn as bright, it can still be rekindled. The moment will come when they may even shine brighter than ever.
The names of the actual persons in this interview are not revealed to protect their privacy.