I’m writing this post for stay-at-home artists, especially women artists who sacrifice so much to look after their families. It can be a struggle for someone who is used to performing on stage and collaborating with many different people to suddenly be alone and “confined” at home. Yet I can assure you that being at home is actually a wonderful opportunity for artistic growth as well as for meaningful work.
This time in my life requires me to be at home most of the time. I have two young children who need my nurturing and care. This is a great joy to me! Yet, this situation also presents its own unique challenges to my musical life. I’m sure there are many people who experience this sort of life change when they go from professional career to caring for family. It can feel isolating. But the life of a musician does not need to disappear under these circumstances. Rather, it can change and grow. Staying at home can offer time for reflection and study, individual discovery and expression, and opportunities for embarking on sincere and unique projects away from peer pressure and deadlines. And if one is at home looking after children, there is the absolutely amazing opportunity to share, in a deep and profound way, the joy of music and all that can be passed on by studying and practicing it.
One of the beautiful things about music and the life of the artist is that they encourage us to be creative problem solvers, flexible and determined in the midst of change. One of my favorite sayings is “Adapt and endure.” The musical life should support the life of the human being and not the other way around. In the situation where one must stay at home, it is most likely necessary to curtail frequent performances on stage. But for thousands of years music making has taken place off stage as well as on. When we take our music from the professional sphere and bring it into the home, we can give it as a gift to our children, teach them about beauty, self expression, world cultures, language, and logical thought processes. We can teach them to sing and/or play an instrument. We can teach them to appreciate the wonderful music of others. In this way we give them the gift of freedom, the gift of art.
There is a historical context to this approach to music. During the Enlightenment in Europe, pianos were first built and sold in great numbers. They were often sold to people in the new middle class, people who wanted to educate themselves and their children. They wanted pianos in their homes because they valued culture. Composers during this time wrote thousands of piano works and instrumental sonatas to satisfy the demand for music in the home. We owe the existence of the violin and piano sonatas of Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert to this demand. Even today pianos are often to be found in homes as a sign of “the good life.” Not every home has someone who knows how to play these instruments, but they are there nevertheless. But of course some families do boast of pianists of various skill levels. How beautiful it is when a family’s home is alive with real music! Children can be taught to appreciate and play at a very early age. By creating an environment where music making is encouraged, the stay-at-home artist is passing on culture to the next generation. This is one of the most important and joyful things we can do as human beings!
So with these thoughts in mind, I continue to create, even late at night. I continue to be an artist, teacher, and musician. I play and sing nursery rhymes by day and write symphonies by night. My newest project is “Symphonic Picture No. 8: The Creation.” It is in three parts and musically tells the story of Genesis, Salvation History, and The New Creation when we are reconciled to the Creator through Jesus. It is a very personal project, one of meditation, of experimentation, of praise and thanksgiving.