Gwendolyn Hoberg's recent essay about being a musician who wonders whether she really wants to know how well she's playing struck a chord with our readers. Here are two responses.
I am writing in response to your article, "Am I a Good Musician..."
I am in my mid-70s and since my retirement my philosophy of concert hall music has changed or, at least, crystallized, because I may have always thought this, but without having recognized it. My parents listened to classical music on the radio and so did I. I loved it. I went to the High School of Music and Art in the art division in the 1950s. Our weekly assemblies had remarkable performances of talented young people, our music division classmates. I have never strayed from the love of this music. It fills me enough to negate the bad passages that life offers, and it accompanies the good passages. I do not play any instrument, but wish I had some talent.
About 20 years ago, something changed. I found it more interesting, more rewarding, to listen to novice musicians of fine music than the virtuosi, the well-known and often praised players.
Wrong or missed notes and incorrect tuning do not matter to me. My ear cannot discern these anyway. It's the life of the music being produced that counts for me. Simply put: there are no more virtuosi, only talented musicians, many very young...and I love them all for what they do. They channel what the ancients had to say about beauty and life up through the moderns and contemporaries. Please do not worry the wrong note bowed or plucked.
My seventh-grade art teacher told our class that her parents let her travel unaccompanied through southeast Asia in the 1920s. She learned that the artisans there always place a mark on their work if it looks perfect, because only the gods can make anything perfect. That is you, already. You can strain toward perfection, if you wish, but please do not attain it. I love the imperfect.
I was quite interested in your article about getting feedback on your performances. You said the goal of seeking feedback was to reduce performance anxiety, but I am not sure feedback on the quality of your playing is going to do that, even if the feedback were reliably positive. Many excellent performers suffer from performance anxiety.
There are psychologists who specialize in working with performers on issues such as stage fright: This is a separate issue from your abilities as a musician, which could more effectively be addressed by working with a teacher or coach.
I believe that both kinds of support could more effectively be received from professionals, not friends, and you should expect to compensate them for their time and expertise.
Best of luck to you!