I have spent
a large portion of my life trying to find balance—not unlike, I would
say, many other musicians and particularly many of the other Sistema Fellows. Whenever I’ve sought advice to life problems,
the phrase “it’s about finding a balance” seemed to be every which way I
After my first year in college, in which I was pursuing two degrees and striving for balance as if it were some sort of all knowing god, the constant failure of reaching this state led me to this conclusion: not only was balance impossible to achieve, but it was terribly overrated and altogether unnecessary. In the seven years that followed, my focus was like a yo-yo. I went from playing the cello for six hours a day to not playing for a whole year; from wearing collared shirts and heels in Washington, D.C. to wearing hiking boots to work as I trudged through mud in the mountains of Guatemala; and from wanting to be a high school Spanish teacher to starting to apply for a PhD in Anthropology.
In conversations with my colleagues, the balance between performing, teaching, and administrating a program has arisen frequently, mainly in the form of lamenting a “lost” performance career, or debating which is more important, spending time with the students or putting extra hours into a grant application.
A few weeks ago, in a conversation about arts evaluation and research, we began to discuss the relationship between harmony, consonance, and dissonance. Namely, that harmony, if seen in the greater scheme of things, is not necessarily a dissonance resolved to a consonance, but rather the constant play between dissonance and consonance. Harmony doesn’t happen just in one measure; it happens over the stretch of an entire piece—and maybe even beyond that. I think that it’s the same with all these different components of our lives. It’s not that balance is impossible; it’s just that my own definition of it has always been so narrow. I’ve been seeing it as something that happens in a defined period of time, when it’s actually something that unfolds over the course of a lifetime. When I look at it that way, my life has in fact been quite balanced.
It’s somewhat ironic that I’ve discovered this at a time when I happen to be immersed in a beautiful combination of everything I love. But this consonance, I’m sure, will not always be so pervasive, and realizing this expanded meaning of both harmony and balance is somewhat comforting as I prepare for things to change in the near future.
Harmony happens: it is natural. We just have to let it unfold and trust in the new notes and chords—even the dissonant ones—that will carry us to where we need to go.
Sistema Fellow '13