How's Your Musical Taste?

If you follow along with my Instagram/Facebook stories, you might have seen my poll this week asking how often you, as a classical musician, listen to classical music.

(I’m using classical as a general term here, so let’s not get caught up in semantics.)

I was curious to know because a beginning adult student asked me what I listen to…

 

…and I froze a little bit.


Because I don’t really listen to anything.

But I’m a professional musician.

Is that weird?

I drive all over Central Kentucky every week to teach at public schools, and I usually spend that time in the car listening to podcasts. If I’m not listening to podcasts, then I’m cycling through the 90s, Indie, and pop stations on Sirius XM. Or I just enjoy the silence.

When I work at home, it’s usually in silence. I’ll have the intention of turning music on, but I quickly get wrapped up in what I’m doing and just forget to turn it on!

 

This is all oddly uncomfortable to admit to you all.

For the longest time I thought I was broken because I don’t spend my free time listening to Beethoven symphonies or Chopin piano sonatas.

How could I possibly be a “real” classical musician if I’m not obsessed with classical music?


I remember hanging out with some of my roommate’s friends during my master’s degree, and someone asked me who my favorite composer was...

*PANIC*

“What is the right answer?? What will be impressive? What if I say a name, and they scoff at my choice??”

I think I said Tchaikovsky.

 

Point being, I was overly concerned about the other person’s opinion of me and my taste, and I didn’t want to be discovered as a “fraud” for not having a “good” answer and an argument to back it up.

 

Another example…

 

I remember my first day of music theory as an undergraduate student. We had to go around the room, stand up (*eye roll*), and tell the class our favorite piece and/or composer.

*SHEER TERROR*

I was 18 years old. I chose to major in music because I loved band in high school, and I loved my flute teacher, and I wanted to be like her.

I grew up in MUHLENBERG COUNTY, KENTUCKY, YA’LL.

My high school did not have an orchestra, so I barely knew any of the rep. I had played less than 10 actual flute pieces at this point, and I, again, was afraid of being “found out.”

I quickly said a pop artist and sat down.

This kind of thing happened outside of music school too. I remember a date asking me to choose something to listen to in the car (insert crying emoji).

At the time I thought this person was a lot “hipper” than me, and I had no idea what to say that wouldn’t seem dumb.  Coldplay seemed like a safe choice? But I could sense the judgment in his reaction (there’s a reason why that one didn’t work out).


 I feel slightly more comfortable sharing all this with you because in my informal Instagram poll asking how much classical music do you listen to (outside of study/practice), 85% of classical musicians that responded to the “Rarely/Never” category selected “Rarely.” And this group includes many fantastic musicians and teachers whom I respect a lot.

I am (now) secure enough in myself to know that I’m a good teacher and musician without listening to dead white people in my free time. It doesn’t mean I don’t like playing their music, or that I don’t know how to play their music – I most certainly do.

classical composers

But I became a musician because of the relationships. I teach music to teach people, and I do believe music has a special way of connecting people, and when I do listen to it, I like to listen to all kinds!


 I listened to Kesha’s Rainbow album on repeat when it came out.

I played Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers constantly while I was writing my doctoral treatise, and I still think about writing that freaking thing every time I hear one of their songs.

My husband and I danced to “Swept Away” by The Avett Brothers for our first dance at our wedding.

I think Lady Gaga’s super bowl halftime show was THE best half time show to date.

And I do have a soft spot for Tchaikovsky because The Nutcracker was my first encounter with (Romantic) classical music, and I wanted to be a ballerina when I was 7.

 

Musical taste is just that. Taste.

So can we agree that there is no “right way” to be a “classical” musician?

And can we also get over the idea that there is such a thing as “superior” musical taste, and can we just like what we like without fear of judgment or a feeling of guilt? Whether we’re a professional musician or not?

Oh, and can we stop judging people if they don’t like what we like?

 

So what kinds of music do you like? :)