There is this notion that once you are a professional musician, you don’t need lessons any more, or that one reaches a certain point and everything becomes clear, like obtaining some guru, oracle status. If only that were true. To be honest, the more I learn, the more daunted I become about how much I don’t know.
I remember Bill Hennessy (one of the quartet’s first teachers) pointing out that the top tennis players have coaches so why not musicians? As the quartet has now settled in our new membership, we felt time for some new ears. But whose ears do we chose?
David Jones (the percussionist, not the department store) has been someone we have admired for years. It can be tricky listening or watching to performances at home (there’s always so many distractions!) but his DVD had me riveted. I was longing to know what he would make of Haydn or Beethoven so I suggested to the quartet that rather than a seasoned string player or chamber music specialist, we ask David Jones to help us understand the music we were playing in a different way. What actually happened was truly unexpected.
David came to one of our concerts and afterwards, instead of grabbing a drink and sharing a few laughs, we went back to the warm up room to get the low down from our “coach”. In recent years those who know me and my family will know that in order to have a conversation with my son, it’s certainly a bonus to be across AFL footy. What has fascinated me the most, in my limited education, is the role and importance of the coach (and their coaching staff) in bringing a team together. Alastair Clarkson has been an absolute genius in making sure Hawthorn continues to grow and reinvent itself but it’s how he gets the players working together towards a common goal (pun intended) and trusting each other that is outstanding. Could David be our Alastair Clarkson?
Rather than give a musician’s analysis of our interpretations, he began by asking us questions like: “What does this music mean to you?”; “Where are you on your journey?”; and “When was the last time you felt comfortable on stage?” These didn’t induce one word answers and we found ourselves in an unexpected therapy session. It was a crucial conversation that we had no idea we needed. What the quartet said will remain inside those four walls, but what emerged was a much deeper understanding of our motivation behind our music making and, from that point, the four of us took a great leap together and began to improvise.
It would have been easy for us to feel self conscious but after dipping our toes in the surprisingly warm sounds, David gently guided us in a musical “choose your own adventure.”
After the newly minted piece reached its natural conclusion, there was an amazed silence.
Music can be just so much fun.