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...
“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.
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.
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.
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? :)