Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lest we forget

Every once in a while we benefit from a reminder of why we do this - why we push ourselves relentlessly to be the best possible musicians we can be regardless or in spite of compensation or appreciation from outside sources.  One of the most famously inspiring examples of such a reminder is found in the speech delivered by Dr. Karl Paulnack to the incoming freshman class of the New England Conservatory of Music in September 2004:

"If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing
appendectomies, you'd take your work very seriously because you would
imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your
emergency room and you're going to have to save their life. Well, my
friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and
bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that
is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you
do your craft.

You're not here to become an entertainer, and you don't have to sell
yourself. The truth is you don't have anything to sell; being a musician
isn't about dispensing a product, like selling used cars. I'm not an
entertainer; I'm a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue
worker. You're here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a
spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works
with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come
into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.  

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I
expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this
planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of
equality, of fairness, I don't expect it will come from a government, a
military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the
religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war
as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is
to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit
together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that's what we do.
As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the
ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives."
Thank you, Dr. Paulnack.  I needed that.


Andrew said...


Thanks for posting this.
I needed this too!


Unknown said...

Wow! That's GREAT Betsy - thank you for sharing this and Happy Christmas!

Tina said...

That is SO going on FB.

It's not just the music, though. It was also having people like you who believed in me.


Amy Maria said...

I swiped this for Facebook, too. Such an incredible piece of "ahhhh" to supplement our many blessings---the most and least of which being bassoon players. HA!

It is because of this blog that I was inspired to go back into music and have access to for a wealth of information that got me to play again and land a gig playing for a professional ensemble after 11 years of hiatus from the bassoon.

Merry Christmas to you!

B.S. said...

Thank you all for your wonderful comments! That's what keeps me going!

Amy Maria, thank you so much for saying you were inspired by this blog. You can't imagine what that means to me.

Happy New Year to you all!


Unknown said...

Fantastic post, Betsy. Thank you! (Just catching up on "back issues" of your blog...) Happy New Year! -Thom