I love Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut is my hero.

I’ve read nearly every one of Kurt Vonnegut’s books. I love his wry humor and oddball social commentary. So it goes.

This Vonnegut quote was circulating on my Facebook feed this week, and the timing couldn’t have been better.

Vonnegut quote

Making art can feel lonely and pointless. All artists (and I include musicians in the broad artist category) have dark times of self-doubt. But whether you are making money as an artist or consider it a hobby, you are making something. Perhaps it will not matter to anyone but you. Nonetheless, there is a deep human urge to create something from nothing.

As a mother, I feel it is my job to help my kids grow souls. My children both study music, but it’s not because I want them to become soloists with symphonies across the world. They study music to broaden their lives, to connect emotionally, and to develop a sharp mind.

Every week I teach several music and movement classes for families with preschool children. I end my music classes for families with this blessing:

“Wherever you go, keep a song in your heart.”

Interlude (R&R in NYC)

Finding artistic renewal on spring break.

It might seem odd to describe a trip to New York City as being restful and relaxing, but I love visiting big cities. The artist within is nurtured by throngs of people going places, by the easy access to art and music, by the diversity of people, by new sights/smells/sounds. Looking out my window today, I see acres of prairie to my right and forest in our backyard, a red barn chicken coop, and endless expanses of sky. Folks in the concrete jungle talk about how they vacation in the country to “get away from it all.” But for our family, city vacations are important for finding a new perspective.

We visited museums, rode the subway, explored Central Park, stared at the bright lights of Times Square, ate food from every corner of the earth, walked until our feet ached, and felt the pulse of the City.

NYC trip

Guggenheim Museum

We took the kids to the Guggenheim Museum where the work of On Kawara was featured. His work is difficult to describe as art. It’s not personal, not particularly beautiful, but definitely difficult to understand. It’s not even clear if Kawara moved living from his art. Nevertheless it hangs in one of the most important museums in the world. The kids are clearly trying to process it too. I wonder what will happen with this in their minds in the future.

A good friend of my husband is the head piano technician at The Juilliard School in New York City. We were fortunate to get a tour of the music school from him. Floor to ceiling windows look out on Lincoln Center and the immaculate studios are huge. Practice rooms are reserved through a kiosk or an app on your phone. In a special climate-controlled area of the building, priceless original manuscripts are available for perusal. My heart swelled with pride upon hearing my 9 year-old daughter say that she wants to attend Julliard when she is older. Although I know the odds are stacked strongly against her (thousands apply for a few precious spots), I was delighted that she could see herself there. A little seed has been planted and I hope she is able to remember this goal when practicing feels pointless.

The kids now know how to get to Carnegie Hall. (Up two blocks and turn right.) Son had chapped lips so he didn’t smile in the picture.

Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall

We also took the kids to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we saw everything from ancient Egyptian tomb art to modern masterpieces. The children were pretty foot-weary by the time we got to the musical instrument collections, but it was important for them to see the history of music as well as the present.

music collection

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Out here in the middle of America, it’s easy for us to be complacent about music. Even worse, we can feel that hours of music practice is without meaning or purpose.

New frames emerge from travel. I am left with the feeling that as musicians we need reminders that we are linked to the past, the present, and the future of art. Even when we are alone in the practice room, we are connected to an unbroken line of artists from the ancient cave painters to the buskers playing music in the subway today.

Pablo Picasso said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Artistic renewal takes many different forms. For some, a walk in the forest is the genesis of a new poem. For me, the energy and resources of a big city is the best way to clear out the cobwebs.