Speed of Improvement

I write from Gdansk, Poland, where I am working this month as the Assistant Conductor of the I, Culture, Orchestra tour – an orchestra made up of young musicians aged 18-29, who get together for a few weeks of intense rehearsal and then go on a tour of Europe. Andrey Boreyko, fantastic musician, is their conductor this year. (More here: http://www.orchestra.culture.pl/en/)

The musicians met for the first time and started working this past Saturday. For the first three days, the orchestra was coached by an incredible team mostly Principals from the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, but also by members of the Berlin Philharmonic and other orchestras. After long days of sectionals, I led evening Tutti rehearsals to consolidate what was learned during the day, and to prepare the orchestra for the arrival of Andrey.

There is so much to teach and so much we can all learn. It is wonderful to work with talented young musicians who strive to be better each time.

The desire to improve: THIS is the key to success.

We can all live life this way: strive each day to be a little bit better than the day before. We can all work to be better at ANYTHING. Maybe I’d like to increase my speed of solfege, or sight-reading at the keyboard. Maybe I need to work on my forehand stroke in tennis. Perhaps I need to be a better husband or father and can certainly always be a better listener to the needs of family and friends (and a better communicator). I may not know enough about the Russian Revolution so I could read a little more about that. It’s endless really.

The first tutti rehearsal was a struggle in many ways. We read through one of the great masterworks of Western Music: Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. And it was apparent that even though there were a hundred talented musicians on stage together, they had just met each other musically, and were not functioning as a cohesive unit, aka an orchestra. Things shape up very quickly with proper direction and attitude, and just a few days later there is a fine orchestra on stage!

Watching this quick improvement and seeing young folks from various countries come together to share in the common love and language of music has already been inspiring. I hope that when these musicians go back home, onto careers in music or otherwise, that they have not just improved their technique as musicians, but have also grown as humans.

We share one small planet in a vast universe of unknowns. As a philosophy, perhaps if humans all could just work to improve ourselves a little each day, we can end up leaving the planet better for our children, end up being more personally fulfilled, and we can allow ourselves to revel in the wonders this life has to offer.