Healing Impatience With Music

On the RoadDear readers,

You might be curious why I would start a blog post with such a strange title. Did it get your attention? Are you a naturally impatient person? If so, join the club! We can celebrate together.

Now that I have given my full disclosure, let’s talk about how we can (hopefully) reverse that trait that seems to sadly pervade much of our society today.

My Personal Story

When I was a teenager and a college-boy, I was very worried. Here I was with a musical talent that many people in the world would only dream of, and I worried about not “making it” in the competitive world of music. I had participated in music festivals with world-class faculty, I had been concertmaster of my high school orchestra, even soloed with it in my graduation year, and had been accepted into New England Conservatory of Music and later, the Royal College of Music in London. Can you believe it? Such problems. Of course, it is only natural that one is concerned with one’s future – particularly when one knows that the world of his or her parents is no longer going to be the same in the future (isn’t that always the case?). In my particular case, I happened to be in the above stage of life at a time when the old model of classical music was going defunct. In other words, LP records were out a long time ago, CD sales were rapidly being replaced by mp3 downloads (which are very cheap, by the way), and classical music audiences were quickly graying. One can certainly make arguments today that classical music is thriving in certain parts of the country, but the perception amongst my colleagues and even many of my mentors was quite dim. Furthermore, sadly many orchestras folded during the Great Recession.

As you can imagine, the roughly decade-long run-up to the Great Recession caused me considerable unease and as the natural fighter that I am, I spent years and years being impatient. I was impatient because I wanted to prove that I could overcome these problems. Not only was I impatient, but I WANTED SUCCESS NOW!! I wanted to prove the world wrong; prove that classical music was still alive and kicking and prove that I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY and that I WOULD BE RECOGNIZED. I compensated for my insecurities by practicing 5 hours per day for 4 years, 4 hours per day for another two years, and 3 hours per day for yet another three years. Not that there was anything wrong with that, in principle – after all, one MUST work hard in conservatory and I always loved music. Yet, I was running on the wrong kind of energy.

After many years of reflection, a thyroid problem that I am sure was partly, if not entirely to blame from my running on the wrong kind of energy, and tremendous hard work, I shifted my attitude entirely. (And yes, my health is, thank G-d, much better now; thank you very much for asking).

You see, impatience was a result of doubt and false belief in myself. I came to learn that doubt and false beliefs actually created something inside me that was selfish – a kind of preoccupation with my own problems that was all about how I could save myself from the world and overcome the “bad lot” that I was given by society. Largely due to the messages in the education I received, I was also indoctrinated into believing that “only the best succeed” in music and that “the odds are against you” (so therefore, you must create an idol out of practicing your violin – bow down faithfully to the practice gods and they will reward you with a job (of course, never mind that we all had this same idea in mind)). Students are very vulnerable because of a power differential and it is very easy to fall into the trap of losing yourself to a surrounding culture. So here I was, at some of the top institutions in the world for undergraduate and later, graduate study, and my colleagues and I were being told that we might not make it due to the harsh nature of our professions. For instance, it is well known that some of the top orchestras in the United States pay six figure salaries but that one must compete against hundreds for one seat in the coveted ensemble – and that’s usually when the person who previously held the seat dies. Sobering and depressing, to say the least. I do not place any blame on the educational institutions – the teachers were not wrong about the odds – they were trying to be realistic. Yet, because these teachers were unable to find answers to predict the future (something no one can really do), I found myself trying not to sink in a whirlpool that was quickly taking down many orchestras, promising child soloist prodigies, and music students in academia.

Let me digress for a minute to state that many of you reading this who are not musicians can hopefully relate to my story – particularly in this day and age where the entire economy of the world has changed and is changing so dramatically. Many are still not where they hoped they would be when they went to college. Many hard working Americans and Europeans, rather than being told that they would possibly “not make it” had another problem – They were promised that “as long as you have a college degree, you’ll be ok” – and then they couldn’t get a job. If you are in this position, are you impatient and frustrated? If so, you’re in the same boat I was in – just with a different history.

What I learned

It took me some time to understand this but there is a reason why I was attracted to classical music from at least the age of 4, if not before. I enjoyed the process of listening to music. I would spend hours listening to records, my mom playing the piano at home, and I loved the energy that was being transmitted through sound. It gave me a certain kind of high that took me on a sonic journey in time. In other words, I was enamored by the sanctification of time through sound. I was processed-focused rather than goal-focused. Just the experience of listening, and later, playing music, excited me. It was a desire to transmit and receive this energy through sound that really made me want to dance as a young child and later, share my music and move others.

Once I became overly-focused on the goal of “being the best” or “succeeding” according to the standards of others, I started to believe that my gift was not as worthy. I started to believe that success was also equated with money, applause, and recognition. I believed that I did not deserve them because I had not yet bowed down enough to the false god of work for work’s sake. Of course this became a self-fulfilling prophecy and I never felt good enough as a student of higher education for 9 years. In other words, doubt and despair took over my natural ability to make music from my own heart, follow my own beat, and become the best musical self I could be. Knowing what I know now, it was more important for me to work not for work’s sake, but for the purpose of doing all of the things I was meant to do – become the best sonic communicator of profound ideas that I could be in my unique wayAfter all, why do we love certain musicians? It’s definitely not because they sound like other musicians but because they say something special that directly resonates with us as a culture or on an individual level.

You see, doubt and despair create a vacuum in the heart which needs to be filled by something unholy – in my case, it was impatience. Impatience was my way of running on the wrong kind of energy in order to “save myself”.

I have replaced my false beliefs with something much more profound. I have come to understand and believe that good people in the world crave genuine honesty, communication, and love. We musicians have an obligation to “play it forward” by transmitting our profound ideas through our music in our own unique ways. Every musician has a life-long journey to follow but I believe in my heart of hearts that success need not be a selfish goal. It only becomes selfish when one has expectations that are unrealistic and unfaithful to the reality of a situation that surrounds the individual. Success will come in its own time and in its own way as G-d wills it as long as the right audience of like-minded people will continue to be impacted by meaningful communication.

Such can be said in any industry and business, as a product that truly shapes and impacts the lives of humanity for the better, as music can, will yield selfless success – and success breeds success.

So here are the take-away points that can apply to you:

If you are impatient with ANYTHING, recognize the following:

  1. Impatience is often taking the unholy place of where doubt or despair set in once upon a time
  2. You have a false belief that has caused you to act inappropriately and on the wrong energy
  3. Focusing on the journey, rather than the destination, is your solution to the problem. We do not know our destination in life but we do know that our journeys can make us feel excited or they can make us feel drained. Try to do what makes you feel excited and if you must do anything that drains you for whatever reason, (financial, etc.), do your best not to resent it – Resentment will only drain you further and you must have faith that better things will come. Finding this faith is a personal journey but if you are inclined to search for it with patience, the answers will come when the time is right.

Musically Yours,

Daniel Broniatowski, D.M.A.
Maestro Musicians Academy
Music to Warm the Heart
Greater Boston