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Monday, February 22, 2010

What jobs did you have as a teen?

I'm going to feel like the lamest of the lame, but I really didn't have any jobs as a teenager. Not for lack of wanting, but because as a musician, dedication to my craft was supposed to be my sole job. See, I wasn't just in band or corps as an extracurricular, I was also a classically trained pianist who'd been playing since age four and had every intention of going to college as a music major (which I did and which I wound up transferring out of, two semesters shy of graduating, but that's a whole 'nother story).

So I literally had no time to hold down a job, other than band fundraisers. I'd wake up early, practice piano for an hour, go to school, do the school thing all day, come home, do homework as quickly as humanly possible, try to squeeze in another hour or two of piano practice before either band or corps rehearsals, which generally took up to four evenings a week, somewhere in there, I'd have a two one-hour piano lessons per week. Friday nights in the fall were football games, Saturdays were competitive band contests. In the spring, the weekends became a little freer-- only one weekend a month was devoted to overnight camps for drum corps (where we had our freebie rehearsal space at a minimum security, state-run mental health hospital-- yet another good story for another time...). But with three weekends free, that meant I could practice piano up to five or six hours in a day (Oh, Czerny & Hanon exercises, how I loathed thee...) Then, come summer, I actually was able to relax on the piano practice... but that's because I was on a bus doing the cross-country tour that came from being in a competitive drum and bugle corps, which entailed fourteen hour rehearsals, outdoors, in some of the vilest summer weather, followed by contests pretty much every night, followed by more bus travel, fourteen-hour rehearsals, lather, rinse, repeat.

Good thing I actually loved all of this (with the exception of the Czerny and Hanon exercises *pauses to spit three times and throw holy water*).

And while I didn't have the experiences that a lot of teenagers had, either working retail or babysitting or lifeguarding or anything else that many of my peers did, I did receive remarkable lessons in discipline and really understood at a very early age what it meant to do something through the tears and frustration and sweat and disappointment because you absolutely loved it and just couldn't imagine your life without it. I get that some people may think it must have amounted to a gigantic waste of time because it's not my profession, the way I imagined for so long it would be, but it's proven valuable in so many other ways, indefinable and concrete. Being so dedicated to music opened up huge worlds for me. I learned history and culture and even math through music. It taught me a lot about perseverance and only shored up my own stubborn nature, both of which have come in really, really handy in this crazy business called publishing.

Maybe most importantly, it allowed me a creative and emotional outlet at a time that so many kids are flailing about, trying to find something with which to connect. And though I didn't know it at the time, it was sowing the seeds for what was to become my other great passion and ultimately, my career, because if there was anything a beautiful piece of music did, it was to inspire a story to take root in my mind; stories that I would weave as the buses rolled across miles of landscape and that I'd ultimately write down.

To this day music remains my greatest inspiration, so maybe my "job" as an aspiring musician really did pay off.


Jan Blazanin said...

Barbara, I'm seriously impressed by your musical talent and determination. Wow!

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

I am also really impressed, Barb! And I think it was great training for writing. Plus I would love to have musical talent like yours!