We often have demands on our lives, especially when we’re working and/or raising a family. I’ve been thinking a lot about this question: How does one continue a musical life while juggling other important priorities? I’ve been thinking about this a lot during my time on maternity leave. I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking about this. Music is such a joy and such an important way of life, yet we can’t live isolated in the practice room. We also should be able to have time for ourselves to enjoy the things that make us happy, be that music or other worthwhile pursuits. Of course, when one is a professional, full-time musician, it is to be expected that there will be much more time allotted to practicing, performing, and gigging. But what about the person who, for whatever reason, doesn’t have this “professional” status? Here are some tactics that I’ve found are helpful in continuing a musical life even when life gets busy.
Practice! The word “practice” often brings to mind the child who has to prepare for the next music lesson, but we can also take it to mean living out the activity of making music, much like religious practice. Living the musical life means regularly taking part in music making. It’s the only way to be a musician. But at times in life when things are very busy, for example with the birth of a new child, one may not have hours on end to be alone in the studio. In such times, it’s good to remember that music is there to serve us, not the other way around. There’s no need to put extra pressure. Rather, work with the time you do have, making music a part of the larger picture of life. In this way, you’ll be able to continue. If you have five minutes to play your instrument, take those five minutes and practice!
Put your instrument in an easily accessible, visible place. This may seem like a little thing, but it really helps! It will make practice time happen a lot more frequently and help you remember to play your instrument.
Listen to the radio station that plays your genre of music. In case you don’t already, listening to the radio is a great way to learn more about music. When you think about what you’re listening to, the composition, style, performance, etc., you can gain new ideas about how you want to play music. I often discover new pieces I would like to study while listening to the classical station. I also hear the names and performances of artists who are involved in the musical scene and learn about live performances in my area. This active listening is a real way to not only “practice” music, but also to be involved in the larger musical world.
Learn from life. It’s good to remember that when we have a rich social and spiritual life, our music can become deeper and more emotional. We can apply what we learn in life to how we play our music and how we connect to others. Our life experiences give us maturity, depth, and understanding. They teach us about the needs of others and of ourselves. We can see from history that many composers had huge challenges in their lives. Yet, they were able to turn adversity into opportunity. They expressed themselves through music. This is good to remember the next time we stay up all night with a hungry baby or have crazy demands at work.
Prioritize. You have time for what you have time for. By this I mean you have time to do the things you are dedicated to. If there is no time to play music, you can ask yourself if perhaps there is some TV time to trade in. Or, maybe there’s a special day of the week when you can block off some time to focus on playing.
Value what you do. The main thing is to be creative in how you weave in music into your life and that you love it enough to always continue. It is a blessing to you and to the world when you express your own individuality and beauty though music.