An amazing young colleague recently had this as her Facebook status:
- I quit flute.
Her friends responded with comments like, “Oh, no, you are SO GOOD!” or, “Don’t quit!!!” and “Nooooo!”
My response? Do it. (But, it’s not what you think. . .)
The late, great, Ed Gobrecht – bassoonist, conductor, educator, master inspirer – once horrified a group of undergraduate music majors at Ithaca College by recommending that we all take a month off from our instrument every summer. His point was that no other professionals practice every day for their entire lives and everyone needs a break in order to avoid boredom, stagnation, and injury. Professional athletes take a break in the off-season. Surgeons, lawyers, and engineers take vacation time. Writers and artists take time off to seek inspiration. Why should musicians be compelled to never take a break, or feel guilty for leaving their instrument at home when going on vacation?
“But, my tone will go out the window!” Or, “I’ll lose my technique!!”
Gobrecht said that it will all come back and will very likely end up being better than before. Why? Because the break was refreshing, invigorating, perhaps even inspiring. And, returning to your instrument will feel like reuniting with an old friend.
One month before taking graduate school auditions, I travelled to Mexico for a week with my husband (and no flute!). I planned my practicing prior to the trip so that I would be ready to audition before I left. I planned a week of embouchure exercises and regrouping when I returned, and that gave me three weeks to polish my auditions. I returned refreshed, excited, and on a mission to have some amazing auditions – then got accepted to my top two schools.
So, my amazing young colleague, do it. Quit. Go hiking with friends or roll in some sand. Eat a fancy meal and visit a museum. Give yourself a few days of not being a flutist. Then, pick the thing back up. You will be excited to get back to work, and your practice time will take on a whole new enthusiastic meaning.
(Here’s a photo of me with Ed Gobrecht at the Ithaca College band reunion, just one year prior to Gobrecht’s death. His inspiration lives on.)