"All you care about is your music"

Something bothered me the other day.

My parents and sister have always referred to my career choice as “your music” with this tone that can only be described as scorn. “My music” is why I’m not a mother, why I wouldn’t be a good mother, why my first marriage failed, why I’m not rich, why people don’t like me, and why I’m not a “family person.” Now, with the exception of the ending of my first marriage and my lack of children, none of these things are true. But the music is not the reason for these two truths – there are a whole host of reasons which I’m not going to get into here.

When I have students who complain about their parents being too involved in their lives, too interested in their musical development, just too much, I always tell them that they are fortunate. (Mostly – there was the student I had many years ago whose mother’s picture could have been found in a slang dictionary to illustrate the phrase, “Stage Mom from Hell.”) When you have a parent who thinks you are talented, that your talent should be nurtured, and that you could be successful performing, embrace that. It’s a damn sight better than the parent who receives your personal triumphs with, “That’s nice. Don’t you miss being a legal secretary? Now that’s a real job.”

A few years ago I heard an interview on NPR with Alfred Lubrano of the Philadelphia Inquirer promoting his book Limbo: Blue Collar Roots, White Collar Dreams. http://www.amazon.com/Limbo-Blue-Collar-Roots-White-Collar-Dreams/dp/0471714399 He spoke of the chasm between the working class family and the child who wants something more – higher education, a career rather than a job, to live somewhere besides the old neighborhood – and also the chasm between that upwardly mobile person and the class to which she aspires. I was driving when I heard the interview and I almost drove off the road. I felt as though he was describing my life. I purchased the book immediately. After reading it, I didn’t feel alone. I didn’t feel any better about my family’s attitude toward “my music,” but at least I knew that there were others who had similar experiences. (I do wish the book had included stories about people who had gone into the arts as well as people who took more traditional paths.)

Music is the center of my life. I love to teach it, I love to perform it, I love to hear it. In that respect, my biological family has it right. But music has made me a more complete person and I do not apologize for its place in my life nor the direction in which it has taken me.

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