Monday, July 9, 2012

My Other Life

In my other life, I am an oboe player. I used to say "was," and call it My Former Life. But over the last couple years there has been a shift. When I get to play, it really does feel like an "Other Life," though. I don't get to play very often anymore, and when I do, I get to be wholly "Claire." Not Mama, not Business Woman, not Wife, but Claire. I get to express myself, do something I love, and get totally lost in the present moment.

I went to college to study music. My goal was to become a concert musician. After finishing my bachelor's degree I continued on to graduate school, and received a Master of Music degree. I was pretty proud of myself, but realized, like most music majors eventually do, that it's not something you just go out and do after you finish school. It takes years of auditions, and can be pretty stressful.

So what did I do instead? I worked at a real estate closing office for a year, got laid off, started a pretty dreamy job working at a community theatre, then found out I was pregnant. Whoops.

Fast forward to now. I play with a pretty amazing community group called the Tallahassee Winds. Prior to this year, it was conducted by a former Dean of the College of Music at FSU who is known throughout the state as a stellar musician. He is now retired, but the group will now be led by two other great conductors from FSU. It may be an all volunteer community group, but it is truly great. We meet every Tuesday during the fall and spring semester, and have four concerts per season. I dearly look forward to each Tuesday evening. I'll never forget the first rehearsal I went to after coming back to the group after delivering my son. (I took off for the first concert of the fall.) Getting out my oboe was like seeing an old friend.

These days, my main music outlets are church gigs, especially at Christmas and Easter. I occasionally play with the Albany Symphony Orchestra in southwest Georgia. But my favorite oboe job is playing musicals. I LOVE playing musicals. It's such a fun atmosphere playing in a pit orchestra. You start out as a rag tag group of about a dozen musicians (ranging from advanced high school students to retired folks who still perform), and by the end of the run (which usually includes about five rehearsals and at least six performances) you've become friends. I love the challenge of playing in musicals. The tempo and meter constantly change, and you never know what will happen in each performance. Live music is so exciting!

I'm so thrilled that this month I get to be a part of the orchestra for the musical Les Miserables, a production of the Leon High School Performing Arts. The music is just gorgeous, and I get to play not just oboe but also English horn. The cast is made up of high school students, and they are doing a fantastic job. The orchestra is is all paid professionals, and even though we've only had one rehearsal so far, I can tell it's going to be a great show.

For the next six days, and then for three days next week, I get to leave home for four hours at a time to enjoy My Other Life. It used to be My Former Life, since for a while during that challenging first year of motherhood, I wondered if I'd ever get to play again. But I've found I need to seek it out. I need to MAKE time to play my oboe, because it's not just going to happen on its own. If I want opportunities to feel like I'm still a part of the musicians' life, I must put myself out there, and be on the look out for gigs. Sometimes I'm lucky and they fall in my lap, but that's certainly not the norm.

I think as mothers it is vital that we not lose touch with our Former/Other Selves. I believe that time to develop our own passions or hobbies outside of daily family and work life (even if you find it fulfilling and fabulous) is so important. It allows us to be multi-faceted, and expand our minds to more than they would be if our only focus was on family and work. The tired old anecdote of the "mother's emotional gas tank that needs to be filled" gets thrown around all the time, but I truly believe it to be true. Whatever your extracurricular of choice may be, I believe that we cannot possibly give to our families when we have not first given to ourselves.

When I visit My Other Life, I give myself music, and I am filled.

Claire Williamson,
Oboe/English horn player
Representative for Ecological Babies


Musical Mir said...

I can totally relate...anytime I get to sing, even just for church I find myself on the brink of tears because it just feels so good to be singing!

Claire said...

Oh, Miranda. I knew you would get this! When we were in school I thought being a professional musician meant a full-time orchestra job. It's taken me a long time to reconcile the fact that that is NOT the only way to be a musician. Sure I'd love to play more often, but I'm SO happy with what I get to do. And honestly since I've embraced that mentality I feel like more jobs are coming to me. For a long time after having Grant I felt like since I didn't have anything musical going on, I might as well just not play. But that's such a bad thought process! I love to play, and NEED to play.

Anonymous said...

I love that you've been reunited with your other self. It completes you and brings you stability. Break a leg this week! Les Mis is my favorite musical!