Hobbies and Classical Musicians

When you become an enthusiast on something other than music, you prevent an explosion from your inner soul. That’s because hobbies and breaks relax your mind from all those hours in the practice room. Anything from home theaters to mountain bikes to skating will maintain your happiness where it belongs, high in the stratosphere. Isn’t happiness and passion the reason you became an instrumentalist? The same passion can be applied to hobbies. You too can find a passion outside of the music scene and balance your career.

My passion is traveling. You have no idea how passionate I am about that topic. I’ve spent countless hours reading articles and books about travel hacking; rambling from blogs to forums in search of premium advice. But like a passion for dirt bikes and gardening, travel hacking is not for everyone; it’s uncomfortable after all. You pay cheap prices but they come with a price; endless hours at airports because of the bad itineraries, overnight on airport floors, travel on tiny seats where you barely fit, etc.

I love it, though. The thrill of exploring new places for me is worth every painful extra layover they add. I’ve spent the night on airports with my violin wrapped around me as well as in five star hotels for half price. The older I get, the less I can manage a 37 hours trip without resting, but I’m always glad I did it after I’m safely on the ground.

Isn’t that too expensive? With organization nothing is. I paid 1/8 of the cost of a crazy two week adventure I scheduled 2 months ago using frequent flyer miles (10 to 12 flights with layovers). You love dirt bikes? Do your research, spend many hours knowing the market and visit forums and blogs and after a couple of months and good amount of knowledge, you will find the bike of your dreams—in good conditions, from a good brand, and for cheap or reasonable amount of money.

Is effort but is worth it in my opinion. You return wanting to practice a million hours. You feel like new. Breaks and hobbies are essential, so pick one and enjoy everything about it—even the uncomfortable things like sleeping in airports, cleaning afterwards and maintaining equipment. Hobbies are exactly what you need to persevere and balance your career in music.

You have to decompress somehow, right? Do it with passion!

Greetings from the skies!

Classical Musicians and “It”

Imagine J.S. Bach wearing a funny outfit, quietly in the comfort of his home, figuring out the first measures of a new composition. The composer starts slowly, getting into the mood, and after a while you see him writing with no effort; as if someone were telling him what to write.

Bach entered a new dimension and connected to a source. Called it however you want, but that connection means he is not alone. He is connected to someone or something greater than himself. And for the look of it, it seems “it” wants him to succeed.

One of my favorite authors calls it “The Muse”, another calls it “God” and some of my friends call it “The Universe.” In this post I’ll call it “It.”

We artists connect with “it” more often than we realize. Yes, people have their own capacity to come up with great ideas, but super incredible masterpieces come alive when you are plugged in to “it.”

To reach “it” you must first enter its dimension. And to enter its dimension you need a focused and still mind. An example of this can be found when you play in orchestra and concentrate on dynamics, phrases and set all your senses for the success of the ensemble. You entered the mental dimension of concentration and you work with maximum focus to reach your top level.

“It” is not E.T. or a character from a sci-fi movie, “it” is something bigger, “it” is what inspired us to start taking lessons. “It” gives us a passionate soul.

I guess a connection with “it” is not easy to explain with words. But I am sure “it” cannot be experienced playing poker or Xbox. “It” can only be experienced when you create, perform, compose, write, interpret and live the instant moment. A journey doesn’t start looking at “it” in the face, but you’ll face “it” at some point if you remain on the path (and keep trying).

“It” smiles when you learn the meaning, theme and lessons of your everyday work. The more you are in touch with “it” the longer you can stay in touch with it. Learn to enter the dimension and explore its benefits, they are many.

Classical Musician’s Flying Guide

Fourteen years ago I departed on a basic aircraft toward the unknown. I gained altitude using only a single motor and a full tank of gas. Three years flying non-stop taught me how to maintain altitude and replace the parts of my aircraft while gliding. In a way, I and it became one. I was the aircraft.

I kept moving higher and higher and so were my problems. I had to figure out how to keep oxygen flowing inside the cabin. My heart was in it; and the oxygen was quickly reaching zero. Without fresh air it was going to be impossible to continue my journey. I learned how to produce air and keep life inside the cabin. I not only created a new breathable element but at the same time I reconstructed the fuselage of my aircraft to fly even higher—all without landing.

When you are flying high, it’s scary to think about landing, and God knows you’ve work hard to keep the altitude. Gas ran low and I had to learn how to use wind as combustible. Even though I endured tough times, I kept moving higher and higher.

After a decade, I entered space. I had to rebuild my craft many times and saved precious oxygen for quite a long time (a nice reserve would buy me time to figure out how to make more oxygen once in space). Looking back from Earth’s orbit, I admired how high I’ve flown, where my awesome journey had taken me. I was proud of myself.

One day, the ISS, or the International Space Station flew by. I saw it coming hours before it reached my position. But my ambition to keep moving higher kept me from realizing the mess I was getting myself into. I was blinded with the idea of moving upwards and discarded the essential help they could’ve given me. The ISS went by and I didn’t even wave.

Today, I find myself aiming toward the moon. Midway to reach it, I think it’s a pretty nice object to move on to, and within reachable distance, because I see it. But my heart tells me to stop. He says he is not sure whether he’ll make it alive. I, the aircraft say we will and that he needs to trust me.

But then I think, “What is my goal? I don’t really know. I just wanted to fly high. I look around and find myself floating without a plan. I reexamine my equipment and recognize they need serious maintenance. I try to keep it up-to-date but my attention to each problem is limited. I am alone doing everything myself; from rebuilding to creating oxygen to refueling. That takes time and effort.

Now that I stopped (for a second), I notice that my fuselage may break down before landing on the moon. All this regular restorations have made the aircraft vulnerable. And if I make it to the moon, I may want to continue onwards to Mars. God knows that the asteroid activity in that area is heavy, so if I decide to move forward, I am going to need help with all the updating and building of my craft.

Wait! What the hell am I thinking?

My head is already on Mars yet my body is here, between Earth and the moon and my equipment rapidly going south. First things first! I have to deal with immediate problems and stop daydreaming about traveling somewhere out of reach—for now.

All these years flying solo made me forget why I started this journey in the first place—there was no one to remind me. Now I have no route, no plan; risking survival and depending on my weakest link onboard.

The closest help I can get is from the ISS, which means I have to go backwards, oh-oh! My ambitious soul is not going to like that. But again, my soul won’t help me with restorations in the middle of crisis—my heart will. And it’s screaming to go back. Ah, it will be nice to take a break and gain mental strength for my trip, after almost a decade non-stop. I deserve it. I may even have time to appreciate what I have accomplished. Perhaps I get advice from veteran astronauts and discover what I really want.

Then, after some time and fully equipped, I could move on. And even if I decide to fly solo again, I will keep contact with the guys who know all about space. Damn it! I wish I would have thought of that before I left Earth. But well, the second best moment to act is right now—better second place than last, right?

Final decision: I will go back and rest at the ISS. Shut up ambition! I will revitalize, ask for help and plan my future. Only then will I resume, possibly with a team of people who care about me and my mission—even if it’s by radio. I’m turning around. And despite where my journey ends, I will listen to my heart after ignoring him for years.

This story may or not be about my personal career in music, but like me, get imaginative and don’t forget to wave if you see me in the park—we may not see each other again.

Musicians and Their Egos

Fame is the lover of Ego. When Fame is home, Ego feels loved. When Fame goes shopping, Ego feels lonely and desperate; he thinks Fame will never come again, and that Ego won’t be loved anymore. Ego is a very egocentric. He only cares about himself—as long as he is loved he “think” he’s happy.

We all have egos, and therefore need to be loved. Not in a kissing or romantic way (yes that too), but we need people to acknowledge the things we do—especially the things we care about. We care about music, and after a big recital we’d feel offended if nobody says “how wonderful you played.” That’s because we need those words to please our ego.

Fame comes in a variety of ways. It is not only Hollywood stars, soloists and musicians who’ve recorded CDs who earn fame. You have fame when you play principal of an orchestra, also when you play difficult repertoire and lead a small group in some way. You are famous when you feel superior to your colleagues—because you are, and you know it.

They don’t let you know, but they want to play like you. Everybody wants to be excellent, and in the present moment, you are the meaning of excellence—at least in that particular region, group or society. That’s why when you lose fame your ego feels it badly; especially, if you were the top guy for many months or years.

 

Playing it Smart

Knowing how the ego works is the first step to control its reaction. You don’t need to be admired all the time, yes, it feels good, but the world doesn’t turn around you. It’s not about how you feel always, there are other people, but again, the world doesn’t turn around them either. It turns around everybody.

If you are the King of a seminar or orchestra or chamber ensemble, know that it may be temporary. Don’t act like an ass**** “I know everything”. You are there to facilitate, help and lead—and stay humble (which is the hardest part for some). Anybody could lead, but today you are the concertmaster/leader/conductor. It’s your opportunity to connect, not command. When you lose your opportunity, it means it’s somebody else’s turn. It doesn’t mean you suck. Your ego will think so but no. Pass the baton and find comfort in that you will be loved anyways. Tell the ego to shut up and beat it.

Being loved by the masses feels great, but you must remember that one tiny mistake will alert them of your imperfection—as if they were so perfect, right—you will be vulnerable. It’s a love/hate relationship that one has to learn how to balance in order to live a happy life. What’s more important is to know that you’ll be fine after passing the baton.

50 Part-time Jobs for Classical Musicians

Here’s my list of 50 unconventional ways to earn an extra income in the field of music. They are not easy to put together, but nothing in the art world is. These are just possibilities that with effort and time could bring you additional money and, more important, happiness.

1. Skype Lessons.

2. Cruise ship musician.

3. Write audio books score.

4. Write a novel about music and musicians.

5. Write a How-to Book and self-publish it.

6. Write for a music magazine.

7. Write program notes for concerts.

8. Open a music publisher in your living room.

9. Design effective websites for musicians.

10. Create a podcast.

11. Teach a series of classes on YouTube.

12. Conduct an amateur ensemble.

13. Propose a concert series in a local café.

14. Compose spiritual or Yoga music.

15. Arrange and record the folkloric music of your country and sell it on a CD.

16. Design cups, pencils and items in form of music notes.

17. Sing pop music in restaurants; take a break from classical singing.

18. Be a supplier. Sell strings and accessories; online, on your trunk or in your garage.

19. Become an Agent. Find wedding gigs for already quartets and chamber groups and earn a commission.

20. Use Amazon affiliate to earn a commission every time someone buys what you recommend online.

21. Buy and Sell music items on eBay.

22. Teach your second instrument.

23. Write an Etude Book.

24. Design and sell your own sheet music paper.

25. Run an improvisation night in a public place, ask for donations.

26. Tune pianos.

27. Engrave sheet music.

28. Schedule your own tour (quartet, duo or even solo).

29. Rent instruments and equipment.

30. Work at the Box Office.

31. Become a teacher’s assistant.

32. Apply for grants.

33. Perfect pitch? Arrange!

34. Own a recording studio.

35. Host a workshop.

36. Write personalized compositions.

37. Play in funerals.

38. Organize a bookstore concert.

39. Play romantic music next to a couple in a restaurant.

40. Host a conference and speak about what you know; design it for musicians.

41. Play Musicals—with orchestra or with a pianist.

42. Write a Theory book (and teach theory).

43. Make a compendium of excerpts for your instrument and sell it online and offline—find fingerings and annotations from famous professors.

44. Write a nice letter of introduction and ask big companies to support your projects. Be clear and specific. Include how they can also benefit from it.

45. Restore instruments.

46. Teach a class on beating anxiety.

47. Teach Alexander Technique.

48. Write lyrics for pop music.

49. Be the manager of an orchestra.

50. Librarian of an orchestra or school of music.

Beethoven is a Fictional Character

I couldn’t believe I was experiencing the Berlin Philharmonic with Simon Rattle conducting. I’d see him before in magazine covers, but this time he was moving the baton up and down letting us all know he is very well alive.

What a weird feeling to see him LIVE. I’ve heard so much about him that somehow he became part of a fiction world. In that world, I have also stored people like Beethoven. Who exactly is that guy? Oh yeah, that fictional character in my head who doesn’t like to brush his hair.

Unlike Simon, I can’t experience Beethoven LIVE. The composer still plays a big fictional role in my head because of his incredible past in the real world.

There is something about legends, myths, stories and fiction that captivate us. And that is not whether the facts are true or not, it’s the message they convey. How the music makes you feel, the great lessons you learn on a character’s journey or even the experiences of a writer or composer.

Fiction or real the question should be: What can I take home from this?

What Makes a Professional Musician?

The word “professional” has a lot to do (to most people) with money and status. Take for example a professional magician; he’s considered professional if he performs in Las Vegas; otherwise “professional” wouldn’t be good enough for him.

The same issue happens with the professional driver who races in big competitions; he gets paid the big bucks and appears on T.V. He is a professional because everybody, or at least the hardcore fans, knows him. If you write a book and get it published by a big publisher company, you are a pro; no matter how bad it sells you got the attention of a big publisher. You may or not get much money out of it but FAME is definitely by your side. It got you the status, you are a pro.

Lastly, a professional musician is usually one who joins a “professional” orchestra, teaches in a renowned university or has a touring schedule planned.

Our view of what constitutes professionalism is a stereotype of what society considers excellent. You are a pro when you reach big audiences, whether you race cars, make magic or play music.

Steven Pressfield takes professionalism in a different way (see War of Art and Turning Pro). Professional for him means turning your passion into your work and fight resistance to be the best you can be in what you love the most. That’s a lot of awesomeness in one sentence.

For him, you are a professional not when you are published or get a big solo gig, but when you show up every day in the practice room, or teach enthusiastically even if you are tired, or prepare arduously for a couple of months and try out for competitions.

Even if you lose (don’t get a prize) you are a professional. Because what you put yourself through was not amateur behavior. That stuff is for pros. You are a pro before joining the Chicago Symphony or teaching at Curtis. You are a pro when you do the job consistently—for the love of making art and for the happiness it brings you.

Are you a pro?

Classical Musician’s Guide to Money

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This guide is just an introduction to successful money managing. It’s what I’ve learned from my personal heroes. Anyone can benefit from it, but because musicians are my people and my tribe, I specifically wrote it thinking about our common problems and circumstances.

I live by these rules and I can tell you that THEY WORK. It doesn’t take millions of dollars to reach a couple of goals; it takes smart money managing and a bit of organization. Here’s how you too can freely move around and use money to your advantage:

 

 

1. Music it’s your business. It’s also your passion but you have bills to pay. If you treat it like a business it will become one eventually.

 

 

2. Teaching is a must. Not only will you impact your students but also grow as a performing artist—and earn an extra income.

 

3. It’s not always about money. Most of the times it’s about happiness, but again, you need to pay bills.

 

4. Earn money by helping people, it’s the most incredible thing you can do. (Teach!)

 

5. Choose at least 3 branches in the field of music. Not only perform but also minor in education, composition, conducting, piano or something else. You can open a publisher’s house if you are a composer. Orchestrate for someone or even conduct small projects.

 

 

6. Earn trust from people. Be reliable and help as often as you can. Help for free when you think is appropriate.

 

7. Read. Knowledge is money.

 

 

8. Learn how to manage your finances (read finance blogs).

 

9. Stay healthy. You’ll be stronger and therefore able to work and make money.

 

10. Money is a tool to help you grow as a musician and person, not more.

 

11. Give money to charities. Money is a tool, don’t value it otherwise. Stay with some and give some to those who need it more than you.

 

12. When buying a new instrument or equipment pay with credit cards. If you do your research, you can apply in advance for a reward credit card and get points or miles. I’ve done it and have had the time of my life.

 

 

13. When buying something expensive like a T.V. or a computer, get another credit card and get more miles or points.

 

14. Be responsible with credit cards and don’t spend because you are earning points. Pay on time to avoid fees. Credit cards are another tool and you don’t want to give away your hard earned money (give them to charities).

 

15. Get a part-time job while studying and apply for scholarship.

 

16. Use e-Bay and Amazon to compare prices.

 

17. Buy it used most of the time.

 

18. Slowly build your library of scores, parts and Cd’s. Buy them used if possible. It’s an investment.

 

19. Be careful with the word: investment. You majored in music not economics; make sure you know what you are getting into.

 

20. Organic is always better than regular food. So it’s fair-trade (see next item).

 

21. Quality over quantity. Even if it means paying a little more.

 

22. Get out of debt. It’s tying you up to move freely. (If you have to start somewhere—start here).

 

23. Get enough sleep so you can think about money smartly.

 

24. The time to build a music business or find a side job is when you have a secure job. Thanks Seth Godin!

 

25. Always look at the worst that can happen, if it’s not that bad don’t think twice and jump.

 

26. Artists CAN make a living doing art. If you at least come up with a main plan and a plan B, you will be fine.

 

27. It’s likely that you’ll never be rich. But you knew that before you signed up. Live your passion!

 

28. Spend less than you earn.

 

29. Don’t buy it yet. Put it in a waiting list for a month, if you still want it then you can buy it—check on e-Bay first.

 

30. Save money for treats. Pick a book and hide a couple of bills to go to the movies or buy ice-cream.

 

31. Read: I Will Teach You to be Rich.

 

32. Every week buy something for $5 or less that makes you happy.

 

33. Maintain a good credit score.

 

34. While you grow as a musician, rent the cheapest place. Commodities are not a priority while you are in college. You need good sounding strings and a good instrument.

 

 

35. When you get a job and become a professional, buy a house. It’s a good investment. Find the lowest monthly interest rate and get a loan (if you need to). Paying rent all your life means paying the net worth of several houses. You only need one house—on your name.

 

 

36. A bachelor of music is expensive in the U.S. Is Europe an option? If not, apply to major conservatories but also to small schools. Your final decision will depend of where you get in and who gives you scholarship money. You need quality training at affordable price, meet in the middle.

 

 

37. If you don’t go to Julliard can you take a lesson with a renowned professor once a month/once every couple of months/ once a year?

 

 

38. Your money should help you grow as a musician. Have separate piggy bank accounts for each subject. E.g. lessons with pros, movies and ice cream, dates, strings and instruments related stuff.

 

39. Eating out every day adds up quickly. I spent a big sum of money during undergrad and grad school—and gained a lot of weight.

 

 

40. Musicians like alcohol. Set a budget aside for these purposes if you are into that. Keep swiping your card and once you lose control disaster follows.

 

41. Spend money on experiences not things. Choose a Berlin Phil concert, a Grand Canyon visit or hiking shoes over an expensive watch, fancy wallet or new car.

 

42. Buying a brand new car is the worse transaction you can make (once it’s out of the dealer it loses a couple thousand dollars of value). The best investment is to buy land.

 

 

43. Subscribe to music magazines and read them.

 

 

44. No gambling. The odds are against you.

 

45. Bike to school. It saves gas and helps you burn calories.

 

46. Always keep the future in mind. In fact, delay gratification and pleasure—do work now and solve problems ASAP. Later the pleasure will be greater and longer.

 

47. A Berlin Philharmonic CD for $3 is only worth if you are going to listen to it. Otherwise leave it in the store.

 

48. Avoid $1 things unless they are edible, and even then.

 

49. Avoid $2 things unless they are edible, and even then.

 

50. A onetime seminar or class is probably worth the fee.

 

 

Is Technique Killing Your Motivation?

We are constantly trying different methods in search of what works best. And a good balance between the monster technique and your own personal childish expression will most likely result in a finished masterpiece.

Technique helped you say what you had to, your own unique way. It was the tunnel for your water to flow.

So, yes indeed, you need to devote time to practice etudes and sharpen your scales.

It’s how you do it…

Some musicians play first thing in the morning 1 to 3 hours of technical exercises. That’s like 3 hours of gym muscle training. No “real” music involved—only strengthening.

The routine goes like that for weeks and the performer’s main focus is leveling up technique.

And then I have to ask, “What about the music?”

The reason you signed up!

The reason you signed up is that we are creative beings. We play music to express something, usually our feelings. We want to play dynamics and phrases and enjoy the ride. We don’t want to think about technique. In a perfect world, we just play concertos and pieces for the pleasure it gives us—not etudes, not scales and nothing other than fun stuff. Neither of us wants to play etude No. 15 at Carnegie Hall. We want to play the sentimental, brave and magical melodies.

Some adults think that children are the ones who should have fun. Adults have to go to work and live busy lives. Well that’s just wrong. We cannot live adult lives. Artists specially must let their inner child take over when they play/create—I will go ahead and say ALWAYS.

It’s how you will engage with what you do. We are not normal people; we make a living creating art. And successful art is childish.

Artists paint and so do kids. Artists dance and so do kids. Artists have fun, like kids do. There is a link between innocence and art that we can assimilate through behaving like kids.

Kids don’t think about technique, adults do.

But as adults, we have to find that balance and take the best of both worlds. Let your inner child play half the time, and the other half join the army that forces you to wake up in the morning and do your mandatory push-ups.

I didn’t wake up today against technique. I woke up thinking about the importance of letting your inner child express itself and forget (half of the time) about technique.

Just playing and enjoying.

Trust the technique you’ve build so far and do your best to leave it behind. Your body will pull it out when it needs it.

Balance is one word I’ve used often in my posts because I am learning it at this moment in my life. Do your push-ups but don’t forget about the real reason you signed up; to speak up your love for art and say something unique. And you do that by letting your inner child go nuts. Try it, it feels good.

Haunted by Practice Ghosts?

The night before you scheduled your practice sessions, your meals, coffee breaks, time to listen to a record, a meeting with an old friend and even the exact time you were supposed to go to bed.

The next day you followed the plan and it went well—until lunch break. You were ten minutes late for the afternoon session and took a coffee break ten minutes earlier than you should have. A friend passed by your practice room and wanted to catch up quickly, you didn’t dare to say no and there went another 15 minutes. Then all of a sudden it was time to go home.

You didn’t practice like you said you would.

What happened?

1. Either you put too much work for one day, or

2. You were not disciplined enough to follow the schedule

The worst thing about not following a schedule is:

· Not only do you not practice but also worry. You are completely aware of the time you did not practice and that stays in your mind—haunting you for days.

The rule is simple, nobody wants to be haunted by practice ghosts who come and remind you how close is the day of the recital (and you missed an hour today).

The solution: practice now, work now, do the job now, move now, write now, research now, play now, sing now, compose now, jump now.

Although now is not now but a series of now’s, now is the only time you can make sure:

1. You can sleep at peace (no practice monsters in mind or the closet)

2. Without guilt

3. Without worries.

If you work now you will sleep well later, you will feel good with yourself, and best of all, you will be moving forward. And that’s the right direction to reach your musical goals.

For the Empire,

CESAR AVILES

My Secret Non-Musician Life

It chose me. I didn’t choose it. If it were up to me I would only do music. But no, I can’t, at least not for the next couple of months.

This secret life takes a lot of energy from me, gasoline I could be using to sharpen my technique with etudes or write a book. But what can I do? I can’t quit.

In a way, my secret life is part of the main quest: to become a better violinist. I moved to Germany in search of my big break. I’ve learned their ways and how to stay afloat. But the quest I chose as a violinist came with a series of mini quests (every big quest does).

Things like learning a new language and battling a higher level of competition; and, of course, my secret life.

I call it “my secret life” because it’s a job, and there I don’t do music. But because of it, I have a nice job in the music school and even scheduled performances. I am indeed moving forward in my professional career as a musician, something that wouldn’t have happened if I wouldn’t have said YES to the secret life.

I can’t talk much about my secret life (it’s obvious I don’t like it), but I can say it’s a humble job that takes a lot of guts to finish, especially for a guy like me who hasn’t worked in anything other than music.

You can say I am a spoiled brat who likes it easy, and you may or not be right. But what is easy? Is music easy? Is writing easy? Is living like an artist easy?

Don’t worry. I am not quitting now that I have been through so many months and can finally see an end (June). I am staying and I am taking it. Not only that, I will take it and will learn something from it. I will show the people in this job that I CAN do the things I hate with a smile. Not a fake one, a real one.

I will make them miss me when I leave. I will treat them with respect and then I will help them achieve their own happiness, their own goals as individuals and community.

With a couple of months to go, I know it’s not going to be always easy. I think it may help to see it like a workshop. It’s experience, and skills earned.

And in July, oh! July is going to see it big. I will throw the biggest party ever thrown by human kind. I will appreciate (probably) every waking second I spend with the violin on my shoulder and every breath I take inside the music school.

Things happen for a reason, said someone dear to me. And whether the universe or God wanted me there, I have to TRUST is the right thing for now. The date is marked on my calendar in bright red, I’m sure I won’t miss that appointment.

To win this game I need a clear mindset that explains why I do it. It is part of the main quest. It is part of the main quest. It is part of the main quest. I will repeat it until the day marked on the calendar, and then you are invited to party with me.

For the Empire,

CESAR AVILES

Life is More than a Career in Music

You know something is wrong when you wake up and think about the hours you have to put in today. Before you even get out of bed the adrenaline reaches anxiety levels. That’s because over the years your obsession with “getting better” has taken over your routine and your peace of mind.

Even on Sundays you feel guilty if the metronome is not clicking. The whole day goes by pointing out how bad you are behaving; because you are not practicing.

But soon, you realize that everybody else is free. And that bothers you. Still, you know what it takes to make it in music and you go straight to the practice room and get busy. The pressure is on!

 

Life is more than your career

I started this post as an effort to fix my own habits. I really work my ass off in order to keep leveling up, to be a better violinist and a better writer. But last week, and I am embarrassed to say this, my schedule started at 6 am and finished at 10pm. Everything from reading/studying (various subjects: personal development, writing techniques, Galamian principles of violin playing), doing my workshops, practicing, updating my blog, teach and work a second job.

I crashed. And then I thought; what will I remember when I am 80? 

Life is much more than performing, much more than your career. And I am talking to myself for most of this post (but perhaps you do the same).

Take care of yourself. “Treat yourself as a precious object, it will make you strong,” says the author of the Artist’s Way (a workshop I’m working on). Go after your goals but know when to take a break; know when and what to eliminate that is not completely crucial (at this stage of life).

Today I took the first step: awareness. I am aware that my schedule is not a healthy one. I will have to replace some work with going for a walk and get some ice cream. Cool things may happen on that walk that I could remember when I’m 80.

Don’t obsess to the point it gets uncontrollable. I know, we love so much leveling up but there are boundaries. There are other responsibilities in life. You’d want to have amazing memories when you are 80 and they mostly come from family, friends and afternoon walks. 

Make time to make memories, and then, by all means hit the practice room. When you live a balanced life, you are more likely to succeed at most of the branches in the tree of your life. Isn’t that what you want?

 

For the Empire,

CESAR AVILES

 

PS: If you are in New York, Chicago, Tampa, Albuquerque or in a city close by, let me know. On April I am going on a crazy adventure and would love to meet with you :). 

A Prayer for all the Musicians and People of Venezuela

Peace for Venezuela

Trust is not Fame; it’s not Technique

The best deals you’ll ever make (not counting luck) will be based on relationships. As a freelance/entrepreneur/musician, your job is to build these relationships to gain the most valuable asset: trust.

Trust is not fame; it is not technique. Trust is what you build with other human beings for the sake of mutual benefits (win-win). You trust someone who behaved well with you. You trust those who have a history, those who’s past talk loud and clear. That’s why you buy that brand of coffee you like so much.

Trust is building the history to enjoy later benefits.

Let’s say you played a concert with your chamber ensemble and after the concert you greeted the audience by the exit door. You connected and made yourself accessible. The stage didn’t separate you from them. You blended with those who gave you a try. You expressed gratitude for their attendance.

You are not trying to scam them by gaining their trust and immediately selling your latest album. You want them to get to know you and enjoy your music. If they decide to buy your product, is up to them; it’s a plus not a must.

I will go ahead and say that your job is to make friends; to build a network.

It’s hard to make connections while there’s a stack of bills waiting to be paid. But if you value the trust of your audience and respect their loyalty, you will make revenue.

It’s more suitable to make human bonds and make a sell base on real interaction than pushing and forcing the customer to buy your CD.

Yes, it takes months and years. And you’ll have to find an extra income to pay rent. Here are 20 different choices, choose one.

 

For the Empire,

CESAR AVILES

The Value of a Gig

It’s not what you earn in one gig but the value you give it.

It’s not only about the money. What about the sentimental value? Who are you doing it for? What’s the cause?

Money is a tool. It’s what you need to pay rent and to buy new strings. But, how do we keep a balance? When to play for love? When to play for money?

Society taught us well how to need money. We would never play for free. How dare you! I majored in performance. And then, there’re these ads running on Facebook on what you think you are getting when you book a musician, and what you are really getting.

Yes, playing for Donald Trump for free is not a good idea; respect yourself as a musician!

But we often forget the most important part of making music. You entered the business to be rich. NOT. And most musicians (yes I said it) lose their love for the craft. They get accustomed to their daily routines. Cellist be like, “I only have 8 notes on Pachebel’s Canon, I don’t need the music,” pouty face.

It’s about making those 8 notes different each time. It’s about not getting bored; about making music with eight notes.

Your gig will bring money and peace of mind, but will it bring happiness as well?

Enjoy your gig my dearest colleague. Otherwise you might as well be stuck in a 9-5 job. They pay better and offer you better benefits.