Insecurity

Are you ready for another installment of “The Mad Pianist Confessions?”  Okay, so maybe that’s not a real thing but it is what we are doing today.  This may surprise some but I am probably the most insecure person that I know.  In fact, I have been fairly insecure 95% of my life.  I have been very blessed to have people in my life that have helped to buoy me up and offer me praise but that’s never really enough, is it?  Confidence is something that has to come from within and cannot be imposed upon oneself.

Erich Fromm has been quoted as saying, “The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity.”  So, how is it that we get to the level of toleration?  That is the question of the day, isn’t it?

I look back on my life and see my insecurities so firmly rooted in my experiences.  In high school, I had a great piano teacher but I never felt quite “good enough.”  I remember leaving my lessons more than once in tears.  She had another student that seemed to be pitted against me often.  I have no idea whether that was something done intentionally or just by chance.  We were paired for duo piano and played comparable pieces.  I came to really detest the sound of her name.  “Well, this is what [name] is doing.”  I was ahead of her by a year in school, so I moved on and became a piano major at university.  She came to audition the next spring and I prayed she would go somewhere else.  “Please, anywhere but here.”  She did end up attending another university.  I have come to a peace about that time in my life and those experiences but I hope that I never cause a student of mine to feel as I did.  I was good but it was never quite enough to be acceptable.

In college, I remember my insecurity growing so large that I would often not seek out opportunities because of the chance of failure.  I remember meeting with my piano teacher during my junior year to talk about my future.  I was going to be graduating the next spring and really wanted to go to grad school but was so insecure.  I really just wanted her to tell me that I was good enough.  Well, it turns out that she had told me in different ways from my very first semester that I was talented and definitely good enough.  She was a huge supporter of mine from the beginning and it has taken me years to see this clearly.  During that meeting, she did, indeed, tell me that I was good enough and would be a good fit for graduate music school.  Another day, another post, and I will tell more about this time in my life, the conversations I had with this professor, and the life lessons I learned while at the keyboard.

Not only am I insecure with my relationship to my talent but with my relationships with my family, friends, work, and God.  It is always the “am I good enough?”,  “Will I be liked better if…” and so on.  This is my mountain to climb, I suppose.

I am at work today and did a music group with about seven people.  One of them said to me:  “You are so talented, what are you doing here?”  I really had no reply.  I know that I have talent and I know that I should feel confidence in what I can do and accomplish.  There are days that I am well aware of this and others that I just struggle.  I have talent, artistry, and desire but now I need to seek that which I lack: the ability to see myself with those qualities.

So, for those of you struggling, I say push on.  You are more than good enough.  You have all you need within you to succeed.  If I can do it, so can you.

 Peace and love,

The Mad Pianist

Music as Emotion

“When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.” – Henry David Thoreau

Music has always been known to evoke emotion. I hardly think there was a time when humans thought otherwise. Music can evoke emotions of love, joy, sorrow, unease, rage, complete euphoria, and limitless others. So, how is it that we define the sentiments that we want to feel? Is this a conscious choice? Is it born within us or developed? I guess that is the whole nature vs nurture question.

I have never been one to listen to music that leaves me feeling undesired emotions. I like music that leaves me feeling better and more positive about myself and my surroundings than I started. I suppose, for this reason, that this is why I do not like listening to hard rock, metal, or rap. I guess I like to think myself as a purist. Give me a symphony that evokes pure beauty over electric guitar anyday. In a previous post, I did declare that I do like to listen to some pop music and top 40 and I am not now trying to deny that fact. I am just stating a new fact about myself.

I have been thinking about this concept of aesthetics and how we, as humans, choose what music we listen to for enjoyment. I find art pleasing for arts-sake and find no reason to justify it but is that how everyone else views their choices? I have a family member that enjoys listening to all of the “music” that I do not. Does that make his choices any less valid? I think this is a valid point to think on.

In graduate school, I took a class called “The Aesthetics of Music.” In this class, which really was one of my favorites, we debated a lot of subjects. We read a lot of critiques and portions of works by different 19th and 20th century philosophers, discussed the Mozart effect, talked about the music of other cultures, and so on. So, now I am out in the real world. Does my view of what makes a piece of music “beautiful” mean that it is what the world deems “beautiful?” What are my reasons and do I really need to have reasons?

We all have tastes and it will vary from generation to generation and culture to culture. I know that my view of beauty and art varies from my parents and varied considerably from my grandparents. Our tastes will even vary between people of the same set of education and focus. I have a friend from my undergraduate years that loves a piano concerto that I think is lovely but am really only lukewarm toward. I mentioned to a group of current undergraduate piano students at our local university about my love for 20th-century and more modern music. They looked at me as if I came from another planet.

How are we letting these differences influence our thinking? How are we letting them define us as individuals and us as a culture? How are we letting our unique artistic tastes divide us from each other?

I guess that is enough to think about for a Friday evening. Emotion, tastes, culture, beauty — it’s all a lot to swallow when grouped together. Well, just know that this topic or group of topics is far from off the table. Let’s just let it settle and see where we come up on the other side of the dawn.

What are your thoughts? Send me an email (themadpianist1@gmail.com), use the contact form, or leave me a comment and I will get back to you!

Peace and love (and good taste),
The Mad Pianist

Gratitude: Talent

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The Mad Pianist playing Horowitz’s piano. Photo: TLG, 2011

Not many people know exactly what I do for work.  To be honest, there are times when I am not exactly sure what I do when I am at work.  My schedule and functions change fairly regularly – mostly monthly.  I work with the elderly in a long-term care setting but I am not a nurse.  I work within the recreation department but I like to view myself as a “non-licenses music therapist.”  As a result of all of my music training, I have the opportunity to share music with this population.  It is a hard but so very rewarding group of tasks on a daily basis.

Today, as they were getting ready for dinner, a lady wheeled herself up to me.  She said, “When are you going to play the piano for me again?  Can you do it right now?  Do you have something you can play for me?”  At the moment, I was getting ready to attend a staff meeting but we made plans for me to play for her this weekend.  I am going to play some Bach, Beethoven, and a piece composed just a couple of decades back.  Her excitement is kind of funny, at least I think it is.  Nearly everyone at this facility knows that I play the piano (and some know I play other instruments as well) but she is really one of the only ones that seeks me out to play for her.  She is an artist and so I keep trying to tell her that I will play for her if she will paint me a picture.  I think she has figured out that I will play for her anyway.

As a part of my weekly schedule, I have a music group.  Those involved in this group are usually all long-term patients.  They have varying illnesses, cognitive levels, and use of their limbs.  About a month ago, I was leading my music group and they decided that it would be fun to work on some Christmas songs and then record them.  They want to be able to give CDs to their family members for the holidays.  Now, I thought (and still think) that this was a terrific idea.  Little did I know at the time how much work this was going to be for me.  As a group, we picked five songs to work on:  3 traditional carols and 2 of the more “modern” Christmas tunes.  One of these I had never heard and we are learning the words tomorrow.  I have had the opportunity to arrange each of these pieces for the group.  They will be singing and playing various percussive instruments.  I will be on the keyboard and I have arranged for some of my musician friends to assist us.  The closer we get to the recording date, the more excited everyone seems to get about this project.

So, for today, I am grateful that I have this opportunity.  I get to see the smiles on each of the faces of this population.  I get to see the impact that music truly has on each individual and their varying circumstances.  If anyone doubts the power of music to heal and to bridge gaps, come visit with me.  I have seen Alzheimer’s patients become more coherent and balanced.  I have seen behaviors decrease.  I have seen people come together because of the music.  I am a believer.

I am grateful for being given this talent that I can share with the world.  My mom is always telling me “don’t hide your light under a bushel.”  I could be content, mostly, with living in the shadows but that is now what I have been meant to do with my life.  I have a gift and the accompanying training to bless others and to bring a smile and commonality to the lives of those around me.  I will not squander my gift.  I will showcase it and allow it to grow even further.

What talent are you sharing with the world?  I want to hear from you!

Peace and love,

The Mad Pianist Continue reading

Sensory Gratitude

For today’s gratitude post, I thought that I would focus on something that has always concerned me – my senses. My most long-standing fear has been the loss of any of my senses. When I was a child, I used to pray every night that when I awoke the next day, I would have the ability to see and to hear and to use all my senses like I did during that day. So, as you can see, this is something that has bothered me for quite a long time. There are times, even now, when I repeat these same pleadings in my prayers when I am exceptionally worried about them.

For most, this would be something that is not thought about regularly. I have no real idea why it is for me. Growing up, my paternal grandmother had lost her eyesight – or most of it. I remember having to go to her house (she lived just through the block from our family) to help her read a recipe or help her do other things that required eyesight. She still continued to live a rather full life but my parents (and us children) had to step in and provide assistance. So, perhaps that is where the loss of sight phobia comes from. As a musician, the loss of hearing is terribly frightening. Anytime I get a cold and lose a portion of my hearing, I freak out. Luckily, it is only a temporary ailment when it occurs.

So, for today, I am grateful that I do possess my senses. I have the ability to see the world and the beauty that exists. I can hear so much majesty – organized music, sounds of nature, my parents voices, my own voice, and everything that makes horrible and beautiful sounds. I can smell (most of the time) – I love the smell of flowers (especially lilacs), pine trees, and freshly-washed laundry. I can taste the difference between bitter and sweet, sour and tangy. I can feel textures under my fingers. I can snuggle under my favorite blanket that is so soft and warm and feel that it is the opposite of uncomfortable.

I am blessed. For this day, at least, I possess all my senses and will try not to take that for granted. One day, I may wake up and not be able to see or hear. So, for today and today alone can I feel this amount of gratitude. Tomorrow, I will take as it comes and know it will be as it is meant to be and I will learn whatever lessons I am meant to learn.

Peace and love,
The Mad Pianist

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Image obtained by: Artsyfrog
http://artsyfrog.deviantart.com/art/The-Senses-318019555

Gratitude Day 5

Happy Election Day! For today’s blurb on gratitude, I wanted to focus on voting. I know you’re probably all like, “Whatever for?” Well, it really was not so long ago that I, as a female, would not have been able to vote. I think it is important to be able to exercise these democratic rights that we do have. It may be an off year – a year for nothing national to vote on – but it is important. In my voting district, we are just voting on local council seats and a few bond issues but I still have made it a part of my day to vote.

How do we get the youth to see the importance of voting? It is by doing it ourselves. I do not know the current statistics but in the past voting for young adults (18-30) has been an extremely low percentage. I am in that age range myself and I know that we are being bombarded by opinions left and right. It can often seem as if our vote just does not matter. We are the new leaders in our communities and the future leaders of the world. We need to figure out where we stand and why our views matter. If we want a better world for ourselves and the future generations, it is up to us to make that happen.

Several decades ago, there were some very determined people that decided that I should have the right to vote, the right to exercise my opinion, and the right to make a difference. For them, I express my thanks and my determination to make my opinions matter. I want to live in a better world. I start today by voting in my local elections.

Have you voted?

Peace and Love,
The Mad Pianist

Guilty Pleasures

So, let’s spend a moment and talk about guilty pleasures.  I think of guilty pleasures as those things that you enjoy but are maybe a little embarrassed or do not want to admit you enjoy these things.  I never used to feel as though anything that I enjoyed should be something to be embarrassed over but then I went to college.  I was a music major and became quickly convinced that some art, music, television programs, movies, etc. were more worthy of my time and enjoyment than others.  You would think that that notion would be easily dispelled but it has stuck around for a lot of years and my guilt has grown to a new level, I suspect.  In fact, this notion should have been dispelled by the fact that one of my music professors was a huge Macy Gray fan and another really enjoyed the Indigo Girls.  Somehow, I began to feel even more protective over the types of things I would tell others I enjoyed.  “Oh, I rarely listen to the radio and when I do, it is usually on the classical station.”  LIE LIE LIE.  Okay, so I don’t really listen to the radio but I rarely listen to the classical station.  I enjoy Pandora and a variety of music but I feel like I can only admit to certain musicians, like Maria Callas, Vladimir Horowitz, or Daniel Barenboim.

So, I decided in this episode of “The Mad Pianist” that I would admit to a few of my guilty pleasures and get it all out in the open.

Movies:  I like to go to the movies.  I like to watch movies at home.  I just like movies.  I like all kinds of movies – animated, comedy, drama, documentaries, musicals, etc.  I do draw the lines a bit at ratings and content that I find questionable but I will give most movies a go.  So, what movie do I feel is a guilty pleasure for me?  Oh, anything with Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Tracy Morgan, or Amy Poehler.  Yep, any kind of really stupid comedy with fabulous comedy masters makes me hesitant to admit.  I enjoy “Date Night,” “First Sunday,” “Baby Mama,” and “Elf.”  Okay, I am not so embarrassed about the “Elf” admittance but still.

Television:  Well, honestly I don’t watch a lot of TV but I do have a HULU account and at least try to watch some of the shows that are supposed to be hits.  Guilty pleasure television programs?  Well, “Charmed” for one.  I own all of the seasons on DVD and very few people know that about me.  You know who you are.  “The West Wing” is also a guilty pleasure.  All the seasons on DVD are on one of my Amazon wish lists if you want to purchase it for me!  There is one show that is in its first season that I want to be an advocate right now  – “Trophy  Wife,”  It is absolutely funny and was just picked up for a full season.  So, check it out.  I am also a huge fan of “The Closer” but not so embarrassed about that show.

Music:  Now we hit where I feel most embarrassed and where my guilty pleasure meter hits the all-time high.  As a musician, I feel that all my music likes should be lofty and full of art.  I should only like music with absolute purpose – music that requires a lot of transition and more than three chords.  Well, that’s not really the case.  I do love artsy music and I love my classical.  I would not have pursued my education in piano if I did not love that style of music.  However, I think that all music has purpose and it’s just different for each genre.  I do enjoy listening to the Ahn Trio and Anderson and Roe, but I also have a good time listening to Lindsey Sterling and The Piano Guys.  Well, those are not my guilty pleasures.  I would readily admit that to any one of you at any time.  Well, here we go.  My big music guilty pleasures:  Demi Lovato, Britney Spears (her later stuff), Rihanna, Katy Perry.  GASP.  I admitted it.  I’m still here and breathing.  Well, now that it’s been said, I think you should all check out Demi Lovato’s latest album.  It’s my favorite from her by far.  I’m including a lyric video for one of my favorite songs from her latest album.  Listen, enjoy, and then readily (or hesitantly) admit you enjoyed it to all you know….or don’t – it’s your call.

So, what are your guilty pleasures?  Comment here or send me a message via the contact me tab.

Do you have something that you would like addressed or answered?  Fill out the contact me form and I’ll answer it – nothing is off limits!

Peace and love,

The Mad Pianist