As I begin 2017, I’m wrapping up Phase One of my sabbatical year and reflecting on how action-packed the last five months have been! Since September I’ve written a string quartet, crowd-funded the Costa Concordia violin concerto project, finished my book (The Entrepreneurial Muse: Creating a thriving career in classical music), conducted residencies at Michigan State and Roosevelt universities, presented a paper at the Society of Arts Entrepreneurship Education, and completed the first phase of a consulting project for Gettysburg College’s Sunderman Conservatory of Music. And in a week I will travel to New York City to deliver my book manuscript to Oxford University Press and attend the premiere of my new string quartet at Carnegie Hall, performed by Carpe Diem String Quartet.
People have asked if I’ve been resting up during my sabbatical and I just laugh: it’s been incredible to focus solely on my creative work and nothing else, but it hasn’t exactly been restful!
Things will be a little calmer over the next few months, though. One big project remains before returning to teaching next Fall, and that’s to actually write the violin concerto that we funded last October. And of course continuing the process of editing and proofing the book manuscript as we prepare it for publication.
This flurry of activity has got me thinking about the 25-year journey from grad school to this moment. It’s certainly been a long and twisty road, one I couldn’t have possibly foreseen or planned for. There were successes I was sure would amount to “my big break,” only to have them turn out to be one-off’s that didn’t lead anywhere. There were dry spells of great challenge and discouragement. And there were even a couple of times when I considered giving up on a professional life in music altogether.
But what I couldn’t really see happening was the gradual accretion of the skills, experience, and relationships that make a successful career in music possible. Even when I felt lost, or it appeared that there was no forward motion at all, this accretion process was taking place. It just takes some significant perspective to be able to look back and see that every single step of the journey, no matter how aimless it might have felt at the time, got me to this place today. That’s an insight that’s both humbling and encouraging. Humbling, because it helps us see that we are but one small part of the universe unfolding as it will. Encouraging because it means that even when we think we’re lost deep in the forest, we’re already on our way out.
And so as we begin this New Year, may each of us, regardless of where we are on our path, look ahead with wonder and anticipation and ask, “What’s next?”