Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Written by Erin Hannigan, principal oboist for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra

"If there is anything else in your life other than music that you enjoy, that is what you should pursue as a career."

Imagine my surprise when my high school oboe teacher (then Principal Oboist of the Baltimore Symphony) said that to me when I told him my plans to pursue music as a career. How could he say that? I had been Principal oboe of my youth orchestra for years, I had been making All-State since the ninth grade, I was a real hotshot in my high school, and knew that I wanted to play the oboe as a career since I was 12...surely he didn't mean to say such a thing to ME, right? While it hurt to hear those words at that time of my life, years later I realized the depth of his statement (and I also realized the gift that it really was). As time went on, I saw that he had issued a challenge; an inspiration. I sent him a letter thanking him for caring enough about me to prepare me for the road ahead with his honesty.

Music is a wonderful yet incredibly difficult pursuit. A few facts: thousands of young, highly talented, orchestrally trained musicians graduate from top music schools every single year. There are only, as a generous estimate, 10 orchestral positions open for any given instrument across the country every year. College teaching positions are also at a premium, as the number of musicians holding doctorate degrees are at an all-time high. In the recent economic downturn, orchestras of all "calibers" are struggling to keep unavoidable deficits to a minimum.

Therefore, my questions to those of you wishing to pursue a career in music, (and a rewording of the statement my teacher made to me many years ago): do you love music enough to weather the storms ahead? Will the love of it continue to pull you back to the practice room if you (like many) have multiple unsuccessful auditions? Will you work tirelessly on your art until you reach your goals?

If a career in music is truly in your heart and soul, go after those dreams with all the strength that you possess. Where you go to college, who you study with, and even your degree of natural talent are all secondary to the level of hard work and commitment you maintain. Having a degree from the most elite college/conservatory in the world does not guarantee a successful career in music. This is your are the driver, and everything else is simply a navigational tool. There is nothing owed to you in this business.

I love what I do as Principal Oboe of the Dallas Symphony and Adjunct Professor at Southern Methodist University. If I had it to do over again, I would make the exact same choices. The road has not been easy, but I was prepared through those words of my teacher for it to be tough. With those seemingly discouraging words, he lit a fire within me that refused take "no" for an answer. I sincerely hope to do the same for any students I come in contact with. I am thankful every single day of my life for this opportunity to have a career doing what I love. A career in music is a gift not to be taken for granted, and perhaps the fact that it is hard-won makes it even sweeter.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

From Laurie Orloff, GDYO parent
In the last blog I wrote, I totally omitted thanking one other great resource that has contributed to the success of the GDYO and that is the orchestra directors at the schools where students in the GDYO come from. North Texas has some of the finest public and private school orchestral programs in the nation. I am fortunate to be a teacher in some of these systems. The directors are of the highest professional level and are also very nurturing and caring. It takes a tremendous amount of love, patience and expertise to prepare students in school orchestras to become future musicians.

Becoming a musician depends upon the dedication of teachers and parents and the schools that the children attend. I was very fortunate to grow up in Munster, Indiana, where at the time, the string and music theory programs were very strong and well supported by the school boards and administrations. I had many adults take great care to make sure that I had all the instruction, equipment and opportunities I needed.

Being a musician is one of the greatest gifts that a human being could have in his/her lifetime. I am always telling my students, and my own children who are musicians, that no matter what level they take their music to, that their lives will be so enriched and more fulfilling in many ways than if they hadn't stumbled into music to begin with.

Personally speaking, as a professional musician and teacher, my life is fulfilling beyond measure. The chance to sit in the middle of an orchestra, making harmony with dozens of other people there for the same reason fills the soul with sounds and vibrations that can heal many aspects of the challenging lives we all face. Cares and worries about day-to-day living desist when you are in the middle of a beautiful arrangement of sound in camaraderie with others who have their daily challenges to go through. Equally with teaching, when I am responsible for a child at a given point every week, it makes my heart sing to see smiles, hear a little laughter and then hear the passion that they have when they are working on the music. Performing and teaching bring so much joy in life!

I believe that as human beings, we come into this world with joy, a desire to learn and emulate those who are in our world and as time passes, a desire to make the world a better place. We should always take opportunities to share and inspire others into choosing lives that are as rich and fulfilling as ours. I would doubt that there is even one professional musician who hasn't worked with at least one child in developing his/her musical talent. Most often, we bring into the lessons we teach the knowledge and modus operandi that was used to train us. As teachers, we need to constantly assess the methods we are using and the non musical connection we are making to ensure that our students can use what we are teaching and to feel good about themselves as we are teaching so they can absorb all the wisdom and instruction we have to offer. Children whose teachers infuse the lessons with this kind of love and compassion become not only good musicians, but go on to spreading the joy of making music to those with whom they have contact. And the cycle continues.

Laurie Orloff , Author of How to Handle Your Cranky and Stressed Out Parents: A Teen Survival Guide is a professional symphony violist and string teacher in Plano, Dallas and at Greenhill School.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hi, I am Laurie Orloff, a Philharmonic mother and musician, and I can honestly say that I am so grateful to be part of the GDYO family. Sunday, as I walked in towards the end of the Philharmonic's first rehearsal of the season, I heard a very fortissimo passage in Sibelius' 2nd symphony being conducted by James Frank. Tears began welling up in my eyes. My fourteen year old was playing something I didn't play until I was twice his age, and the music was so beautiful and well done, even for sight reading. All those children in the Philharmonic have something special- more than just a left-brain ability to manifest written music into music that is heard. One could tell from the depth and scope of what was actually heard, that each and every child had a very mature understanding of and raw talent for playing music.

In hearing such talent, one can tell so much about an organization. It is evident that Greater Dallas is home to amazing private teachers who are very skilled performers as well as highly skilled motivators of children. Equally, it is obvious that there is an immense amount of dedication on the parents' part to cultivate and nurture a love for music in their children.

Dallas is very lucky as well to have the GDYO family. It truly is a family. When you combine the artistic abilities and supportive guidance of the conductors and coaches and the dedication of the students and parents with the obvious love and nurturing of the very professional staff, I can't think of a family in this broad sense that is more functional, loving and successful in the entire area.

Please take time to come and hear the concerts and to congratulate and appreciate all for their amazing efforts. This organization is going to be one of the biggest highlights in the annals of the history of Greater Dallas.

Laurie Orloff , Author of How to Handle Your Cranky and Stressed Out Parents: A Teen Survival Guide is a professional symphony violist and string teacher in Plano, Dallas and Greenhill School.