“Notes to a Young Musician”
Hello to all and welcome back for my second installment on Hello Stage! I hope you all enjoyed my first entry as much as I enjoyed writing it.
It’s 9:53 a.m. and the title of this post, “Notes to
a Young Musician”, is inspired by last night’s dream
and a little bit of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.
I don’t know about many of you, but I frequently have dreams
where I am reliving a past event in my life and trying to make
sense of it post factum. I’ve often thought,
“If only I knew A or B was coming my way, perhaps I would have been
more prepared to deal with it”.
Unfortunately, life never truly presents its plans
until its due time and we come to find its opportunities
and challenges facing us tête-à-tête.
Whether that’s the beauty or bitterness of Life would be
determined by ones own perspective, I suppose.
This is a very personal blog entry for me.
Personal in that I’m going to share with you a bit of my own
story in regards to challenging career and life moments.
In 2011, I got struck by a viral infection that planted itself
in my neurological system for nearly 20 months.
It was the most difficult time of my life and very few people
would know the extent of my suffering as I, generally, prefer
to keep such personal information to myself.
Though, the worst part was probably that the onset of this illness
came within the first few days of the Verbier Festival in Switzerland. Being a young musician at this festival,
with its many wonderful artists and gorgeous alpine setting, made me feel really honored and excited to be a part of it. Needless to say, I’m sure one could imagine my disappointment at having to run to the doctors’ offices and hospitals every day to get answers about my then present condition, versus playing chamber music and attending concerts. What a nightmare!
My condition also began compromising the career
I was starting to build.
I had just started to receive more attention for my
performances and my new relationships with management
agencies were paving a path for me with various opportunities.
It was a time the gods seemed to have thrown a glance my
way for a moment, all but to take it as quickly as it came
– performances were cancelled, representation was lost
and plans for nearly two years went down the drain.
Within a brief period of time, I went from being a
young musician on the rise to becoming one of the ‘unknown’.
To state that this was a traumatic period would
certainly be an understatement - to find oneself
at that starting point of one’s career,
for the second time, was very trying.
Many things had to be re-evaluated and re-structured in my life
and, knowing that I would continue to pursue being a musician
if I were to recover, I set out to draft a plan of action
in order to get that train moving again.
Which direction did I want to go in?
Did I want to be a soloist again? Could I be a soloist again?
My questions and ponderings were infinite and could
only be resolved through actions – not words.
I first realized that one of the most important things to
do as an ‘unknown’ was to identify where
one’s personality and talents will shine through best.
Are you happiest working within a large group,
small group or mostly on your own?
Do you enjoy cycling through different repertoire rather
frequently or not? Do you prefer to give or receive direction?
Knowing oneself at this phase is crucial in not getting the
career that you want, but the one that will make you happy.
Then, it’s time to map out how you’re
going to make your intentions a reality.
With whom do you need to study, audition,
and connect with in order to move forward in the right direction?
The group of “who” is so important that they will
probably make or break your career - seriously.
Building a team of the right people and seeking out the
right mentors will save you a lot of time and energy
(and maybe money, too!) that would, otherwise, be proven fruitless.
For me, my greatest mentors have been Boris Kuschnir
and Ana Chumachenco and for very different reasons.
I went to study with Professor Kuschnir in Vienna for numerous
reasons, but mainly because he was an active chamber musician
and an authority on violin technique.
Knowing that I lacked experience in chamber music
and having noticed certain technical issues,
I knew that Professor Kuschnir would be right member of my
team because he offered me the solutions to problems I was battling with during that period.
Ana Chumachenco was so important to me for emotional,
psychological support in the wake of my illness and offered
me constructive advice on what to do during and after my recovery.
She offered me advice on specific conductors to audition for,
agents to be in contact with and, simply, just how to
cope with life’s difficult moments.
The importance of both of their guidance during the
beginning and re-beginning points of my career was
invaluable and I am thankful for it everyday.
Competitions? I’ve thought about participating
in some but my intuition has had me steer clear of
them for quite some time now.
The main reason being that, I believe, a
competitive environment requires a specific personality,
not one that necessarily reflects a strong artistic or
musical character, in order to fair well in that arena.
With that said, I do think it is a possibility to achieve
greater exposure on a larger platform and can lead
to a plethora of opportunities.
It’s luck of the draw and the ruling of the powers that be,
so approach them without expectation and just focus upon it
as chance to learn and improve.
As far as myself, I am trying to follow my own advice
and that of my mentors in the process of rebuilding
what time has taken and creating an even more
exciting and bright future.
I still notice the remnants of the damage my illness
left me with years ago (although I’m the only one who
notices them nowadays), but it has not
detoured me whatsoever – in fact,
I’m even more determined than before.
I know many of you are perhaps in a similar
situation and I wish you all the luck in manifesting your dreams and meeting your present and future goals.
If you are passionate about what you do and wish to share that with the world, then failure is out the window and success is at your door.
Until next time,
Violinist Christopher Coritsidis is an international performing artist and social activist based in New York City. When off-stage, he enjoys French literature (and wine!), out-stocking the best donut shops in every city, and...blogging!
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and of course, on HELLO STAGE