Quitting a music career is like leaving ScientologyOrchestras
TheJuilliard clarinet alumnus Zach Manzi, whose post about ending his music career was read by 27,704 people on Slipped Disc, has written a further reflection on the consequences of his decision. He makes it sound a bit like leaving a religious cult or political party.
His second post is every bit as thought-provoking as the first. Most of us will share many of his conflicted emotions. Zach writes:
… Some of the most interesting responses I’ve received have been those related to what I meant by “ending” my career in music. I received comments like, “You’re never done as a musician” and “It’s too bad he threw out the baby with the bath water” and “Hopefully he can find his way to a second act.” What intrigued me was that, although I didn’t really specify what I meant by ending my career, it seemed many people thought I had completely eliminated music from my life. And I get it — I grew up believing that if you end your career in music, it means that music is dead to you. It feels like a lot of us who have reached a professional level might feel that way, considering how much of our hearts we’ve put into this one thing.
So what did I mean by ending my career? Although I would characterize ending my career by no longer depending on the classical music industry for income, that feels like the least significant part of it. I still practice the clarinet occasionally, take gigs when I want to , and enjoy talking about and listening to classical music. It’s still an important part of my life. The most significant part of ending my career in classical music has been far more existential.
The end has primarily involved attempting to separate myself from my identity as a musician, which has led to my understanding that I’ve let my talents and abilities define my worth. There were times in my adult life when I literally thought being a musician was the only interesting thing about me. I’d convinced myself I could not give up that identity because then nobody would want me. I thought worth came from being admired for the things I did, having talent and creating something beautiful in the world, and ultimately, my career choice.
Ending my career has become synonymous with ceasing to calculate my worth by the sum of my achievements in classical music or any career path. I haven’t exactly found my footing in my career outside of music — I’m still figuring it out — but it’s never been about relying upon my new career to give me a sense that I belong on this planet or have a purpose in this life.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t still battle feelings that I failed as a musician. I do. But perhaps all of us musicians, however our paths unfold from here, have the opportunity to look back at our careers in music without seeing them in all-or-nothing terms — either we made it or we didn’t—and without using them to define the worth of our lives. I often think, maybe where I am now, on the downslope of the first stage of a very difficult transition, feeling more at peace than I ever have, is my version of making it.
Read the full article here.