Medical Problems of Performing ArtistsMedical Problems of Performing Artists

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Musical Chairs: A Musician Turned Administrator Talks of Changing Roles

Donald Thulean
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 14 Number 2: Page 60 (June 1999)

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Abstract: I'd had a good conducting career. I knew what my strengths were'and weaknesses, too. As music director of an orchestra in a medium-sized city, I had been part of building an orchestra and audience where neither had really existed before my time. I'd prepared and performed most of the repertoire that I loved and admired at least once, and many works a number of times. And then I accepted a position as an administrator'a position that allowed little time for conducting. The administrative position was challenging, national in scope, and held the opportunity to address issues that had long concerned me as a practicing musician. Why did I feel guilty? Why did I feel like a traitor? Whom was I letting down? Who cared what I did with the last third of my life so long as it was respectable and useful?
I finally identified the source of my angst. It was neither friend nor foe. It was the still, small voice of my artistic conscience. Those hosts from my past who throughout my development as a musician told me I had a "gift" to be shared. It was more than encouraging a talented youngster by well-meaning adults. It sprang from comments such as, "You have a gift'a great gift'a gift you must share." "You have the talent to go far'to make a difference in music."
Whose voices were these? Well, at first they were friends and relatives. Then teachers, public school and private studio teachers. They were judges in the solo contests I entered as a youngster. They were members of church and ad-hoc choirs I conducted as a teenager. But every youngster who excels beyond what are considered to be normal expectations receives praise, often more generous than deserved. None of that was substantial enough to make me feel guilty about becoming an administrator 40 years later.

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