Monday, March 24, 2008

Good Enough is Not Good Enough

This weekend brought many things to my personal inbox of Eyes and Ears. My schedule is such that my sleep rhythms are not what they should be. I often find myself awake at three in the morning. Depending on the next day’s duties I try to get back to sleep, or get up and do something productive.

This particular morning I tried going back to sleep, with the aid of boring early morning television (not infomercials, please, those keep me awake, or, if I do doze off, I’m quoting their nonsense for the rest of the day. Which is what they hope for, of course…).

The show I lucked into was not boring, though, at least not to me, a musician of sorts.

It was about a chamber orchestra, conducted by an amazing woman, and comprised of highly skilled and talented women musicians. I emphasize the fact of their gender because the program emphasized it. That, and the fact that they were from and based in Cuba.

What they are, in fact, are great!

I found myself needing to retrain my ear a bit to keep up with the music I was hearing. It wasn’t just classical string quartet, chamber music, or other such, though it certainly was that. It was Cuban rhythms and themes set to the voices of violin, viola, cello and bass. It was the cry of sorrow, and the song of triumph; the moan of defeat, and the exultation of joy!

In short, that orchestra was good!

How did they get that way?

Those of you who are musicians may recall the old joke of a man running down a New York street carrying an instrument case. He asks a street musician, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The street musician tells him, “Practice, man, practice!”

These women balance hectic lives as students, workers or mothers (sometimes all of the above) and still find time to practice, pay for lessons, and take direction from a singularly driven conductor. The conductor herself is driven to achieve a result as close to perfection as is humanly possible.

The result could be chaos.

What it is: a thing of beauty.

How do they achieve this result? Two things are required: a goal, and the will to achieve it.

Each of these women chose to follow a hard road. Music lessons cost money that could be put to use paying bills or buying food. The instruments themselves are costly. The time to practice might be better used to work to bring in a little more money, or to spend time with friends and family. Musicians sacrifice much for their goal: perhaps unattainable musical perfection.

They know sorrow.

But they also know joy. Their music comes from their hearts and souls. And long, hard practice.

In my humble opinion, the violin is second only to the human voice in its expressiveness. Some would say that, in the hands of a talented and trained musician, the violin surpasses the human voice, literally singing trills, runs, and duets. These same people tell me that to become that accomplished is a lot of work.

These women are united by a common vision provided by their conductor, and by combined decades of practice, lessons and training in the pursuit of excellence.

In short, a goal, and the force of will to achieve it.

You may not be following the musician’s path, but you can take a lesson away from this essay today. Follow your vision (you may need to find it first). Set your goal. Dedicate the necessary effort to achieve it.

Yes, you CAN!

PS: As it happened, I ended up getting up and doing something productive anyway. The Hot Cross Buns were delicious!

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