The Multifaceted Musician

“The only way to become a master of something is to be really with it”

-Alan Watts

“I know people who are cursed by being multitalented or having many different interests”

-Elizabeth Gilbert


As a musician, the question persists, “how does one truly give themselves to the pursuit of great art?” The innovators of history have been primarily of one aim or focus, and in their solitude they have given onlookers new worlds in which to explore. All that they learned was fed to their craft in such a way that it would embody the complex dimension of the life that we all share. Though, the aspiring musician, especially in contemporary culture, must ask how such dedication is possible. The artist is by nature a renaissance man. The musician must give himself to an array of disciplines (ie. composition, arranging, teaching, mastery of an instrument, knowledge of advanced technology etc.). In addition, he must also be able to understand and navigate the business that he works within, which requires extensive social abilities and the fulfillment of social obligations. Literature, philosophy, and often spirituality are still of even greater importance to the artist, and yet, each encompasses their own path towards mastery. It is not so simple anymore to say that a “jack of all trades is a master of none.” That is to say that a master of music must inherently be a master in an assortment of disciplines. Thus, it is not surprising that many students are deterred from undertaking such a commitment and those that aspire constantly suffer under doubt.

Under such crisis one can only look to the great masters of the past for examples on how to proceed with ones given path. In the case of the composer Bela Bartok (composer, pianist, teacher, ethnomusicologist), under a quick examination, it is clear that his life is broken into periods in which certain disciplines were explored. If you thought that I might have some concise answer to the question I posed, I am sorry to disappoint. For even the notion of abandoning one aspect of my musical education for a considerable period of time is difficult to imagine. The only thing that may guide anyone into confidence is the happiness and fulfillment that they gain from their work. In a thicket such as I’ve described one may know that the guiding principle must always be pleasure and happiness despite what stressful and overwhelming work must be done to secure it.

In the end, fragmentation of our interest results in uneasiness and a feeling of hopelessness, but if the artist’s pursuits are joined towards one calling, he may find the fulfillment that we long for.