I find this time of year can become a period of reflection for me as a performer and teacher. After months of being very busy running a program, traveling for concerts, clinics, conducting etc...I am able to sit back for a couple of weeks, and just be "busy". Just the normal everyday running of a career and a life, not quite the breakneck pace of January-March.
There are a few periods in the schedule that open a bit - usually August, sometime between Christmas and New years, and of course this slight relaxing of the schedule before the busy summer season.
I try to think and reflect a little during this time about what I can do better, how I can improve my life, my career and overall just become more efficient, thoughtful and productive. I also think it's time for me to go back to the gym...
One of the ideas/concepts that I continue to ponder is the challenge of the music business. Not that what I do, or any of us do, is "hard". Curing cancer is hard - dealing with childhood poverty or climate change, this is difficult. Music, on the grand scheme of life, really isn't challenging in the same way.
However - there is no question that the business of music is tricky. There are more people who want to be musicians than we have room for in the business. Stability, vacation, and retirement can me harder to realize. It certainly requires a high degree of creativity and "outside the box" thinking.
I also think, to be candid, it requires people who are mentally tough. Regardless of your chosen path in music, if you are teaching college, running a chamber group, taking auditions or playing in an orchestra, you need to be mentally strong. Regular rejection, judgement by your peers, and long hours alone in a room are all hallmarks of a career in music. Traveling, touring, recording....challenging and draining both mentally and physically.
Dealing with prospective students and parents, administrators, grant managers, all require someone who is mentally agile and willing to be creative.
Beyond all of this, you are often alone - writing, practicing, studying. You need to be the kind of person who can build personal networks so that, from time to time, you can walk away from the work and go play a round of golf......you have to recharge before you get back to work.
So - in all of your practicing and studying, add one more thing to the mix. Mental toughness, a thick skin, and the ability to balance competing priorities. You'll need all of it to be successful in this business