2022 here we come! First things first, oops I missed out on 2021 (Happy 6th Anna-versary). I was too busy getting excited over two things - 1) my vibraphone and vocal project, Heenaa! 2) Applying for higher degree research. You guessed it, I did both and they're in full launch. Last 'Anna-versary' post I mentioned working on my solo vibraphone and vocal project, and now I have original songs! You can head to my Instagram for the videos or listen to them on SoundCloud below. I am aiming to release one cover and one original song every month - wish me luck!
You might have noticed I created a new sub-page for this website under the heading, 'Music'. It details all my songwriting, compositions as well as arrangements. Majority of the arrangements were created for my students, and therefore they're free education resources for percussion teachers! Feel free to browse and contact me if you have any questions. One of my favourite arrangements is the TV show Friend's theme song, 'I'll Be There For You', which was arranged for my Percussion Ensemble 1 at school during lockdown and is dedicated to a student who was going through chemotherapy at the time. The arrangement was rehearsed online and parts were recorded separately by the students, later edited together by yours truly. We showed the final edited video to the student, when we reunited together again at school. Needless to say, it was a very beautiful moment in my career as a teacher.
Another path that I began in my career is 'Research'! Also a new sub-page that details my experience and endeavours as a researcher. I began my doctorate degree in mid-2020, which was probably the biggest thing that happened that year. As of today, I have completed my confirmation milestone! It has been such an incredible journey so far in learning the skills in research, academia, writing and furthering my knowledge in high school percussion instrumental music education. My last Anna-versary blog stated I was applying for a Masters, and long story short I did not expect myself to receive the doctorate position with a scholarship at University of Queensland. I also have an incredible supervising team of three illustrious women in the fields of music, education and psychology, and I can't wait to contribute my research to society. This year I will be presenting at the 35th International Society for Music Education (ISME) World Conference and is set to be held online due to the current pandemic situation. I am so excited, I even got headshots done for this new journey of mine! Do I look professional?
Last, but not least, I might have said yes to too many things late last year. This year, I'm performing in three amateur musicals (Little Shop of Horrors, Sweeney Todd, MAMAMIA), began three separate duet projects (with harp, flute, and woodwind) that include new arrangements and compositions, and on top of that I mentioned earlier I'm releasing one cover and one original song a month for my solo vibraphone and vocal project, Heenaa. Oh, did I forget mention that my podcast, Musicians Unmuted, is still happening too!? Funny how life gives you everything at once, when you least expect it.
Am I crazy? Maybe.
Am I excited? Absolutely.
Am I ready for 2022? Bring it on.
Laugh, Love, Live saying YES to 2022!
In 2016, I completed my Bachelor of Music with Honours degree at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. My honours paper focused on the causes of music performance anxiety in improvising classical, jazz and cross-genre tertiary percussionists. After so many years, I finally finished editing my paper and uploaded it online. If you wish to read the paper, please click on the title/link below:
Fear of Expression: A Mixed Method Analysis of the Causes of Music Performance Anxiety in Improvising Classical, Jazz and Cross-Genre Tertiary Percussionists
At the end of 2016, I had the opportunity of presenting my research at Performing Wellness Symposium 2016. It was an incredible experience to engage with researchers alike and venture into a world beyond music itself. I do hope my research can help other percussionists, students, teachers, musicians and health specialists, as the research I found helped me so much in my personal journey.
As a percussionist and educator, I highly value the knowledge and understanding of music psychology. I believe that it is essential knowledge to further understand ourselves to approach our everyday tasks as musicians. Recently I applied for a higher research degree at University of Queensland, as I hope to further my studies in performance psychology in percussion pedagogy - fingers crossed. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my paper and please let me know what you think! I am always happy to discuss percussion, music psychology or musician health with anyone! Lastly, I'll leave you with the conclusion segment of my paper:
During this dissertation, I’ve developed a deeper understanding of myself as a musician, and as a person. Observing artistic practice in comparison to data from other percussionists has been an eye opening and a new learning experience. My journey, as recorded in a reflective journal, shows a change of focus from achieving aesthetic desires to prioritising personal health and artistic satisfaction. A change of attitude has adjusted my approach to music practice and performance. The research project has assisted this positive change, and I hope the research that I’ve gathered here can relate and help other musicians. To conclude, I’d like to leave you with this thought inspired by my counsellor, “What is driving your choices, thoughts and behaviour? Is it passion and love or fear?”
Laugh, Love, Live without Fear of Expression!
Wow! It's been five years since we launched this website. How crazy is that? I have to say this journey has only begun, and I'm so excited to enjoy the rest of this ride. I have to be honest, I have been a bit quiet for the past two years in regards to performing. Except I've made a vow to myself that this year of 2020 I'm going to start putting out more music - more original, more honest, more from my heart.
Firstly, I have finally achieved something I've been talking about for ages since the two year hiatus! Musicians Unmuted is back! It's now run as a one-woman show and still features guests from our Brisbane music scene community. I'm ready to get this train going, and to start it off I launched episode 12 about 'behind the scenes' - a look into what goes behind the podcast.
I also launched a new website at https://musiciansunmuted.weebly.com! Don't forget to follow the podcast on Facebook, SoundCloud, Apple podcast or other podcast platforms to keep updated with the latest!
In other exciting news, I also created a public Instagram account. On it I've continued to dabble in my vocal and vibraphone project, and I've been putting up short covers online. You can view it on my Facebook account as well. Here's a video below for you to enjoy.
Although I seem to be more active in the project since 2019, I actually started experimenting with this since 2015. The first ever clip I recorded was a short cover of Demi Lovato's Catch Me. Then I started dabbling with jazz on Angels Eyes in early 2016. Then in 2019, I gained my passion in it again and covered Paramore's Fake Happy.
It's always been in the back of my mind, and it was definitely a project I wanted to explore and experiment in. I have to say all the beautiful and supportive comments from my friends and colleagues really pushed me to get my act together for it. A particular shout out to Nozomi Omote, my teacher from tertiary, who constantly reminded me to pursue it. So here we are! I honestly can't wait to show you what I have in store.
My Instagram account also features my other musical and artistic endeavours, such as playing piano, guitar or even dancing! I used to think in life we had to find that one thing we're good at, will become well known for or represent as an individual in the community. Except I'm starting to realise we're human, and we're just finding ways on how to express ourselves. This is more so true for the creative minds in life. That we are more than what we label ourselves and what others label us to be. We are who we are, and that can be whatever you want it to be. As long as you're happy, healthy and loving life, then live your dream to the fullest and that's what I'm going to do this year.
Laugh, Love, Live as YOU.
Another year has passed and we've reached the almighty 2020! I've been playing percussion since Grade 9 in 2009 - that's a whole decade. I was looking through old photos, and so much has happened. I am forever grateful to the people, experiences and music I've encountered, as they have made me who I am today and shaped my values, identity and beliefs. I honestly wouldn't be here without them. Here are some photos below from the past since 2013, which was my first year at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University.
These were just photos from my private Instagram account, but there are many more photos and videos on my Facebook business page as well! Other 2019 highlights include augmenting for Queensland Wind Orchestra and Ipswich City Symphony, playing musicals with Ormiston College's Mary Poppins and Savoyards' Oklahoma, as well as a charity gig with The Stairwell Project. I ended the year by premiering Andree Greenwell's chamber opera workshop for 'Three Marys' at the Opera Queensland Studio in December as seen below.
I've been planning a lot for 2020, such as bringing back my podcast, Musicians Unmuted, and starting up musical projects of a percussion ensemble and vibraphone and vocals works. I've also been working on a thesis proposal to start a Masters next year - wish me luck!
Laugh, Love, Live and cherish the past for a better future!
Happy New Year to one and all and a Happy 4th Anna-versary for 'Anna Kho Music'! This is quite a late post, as the new year got busier than I thought. However, I have so many exciting things to share with you! Firstly, here are some photos from a recent photoshoot with my dear friend, Jex Sollis from Orange and Poppyseed Photography.
Before I continue with the new and exciting news, let's go over the highlights from 2018! Last year, I performed one of my favourite musicals, Les Misérables, with one of my favourite musical theatre family, Savoyards. It was an incredible production and I'm so proud of the cast, crew and orchestra who put their heart and soul into it. As always, it was a pleasure to play for musical director, mentor and musician, Geoff Secomb. Don't forget to go check out their 2019 season on their website! On top of that I also filled in for my percussion friend, Tracie Comber, for Spotlight Musical Theatre production of Not the Messiah. It's been a while since I sight read on a gig, and it was so much fun! Towards the end of the year I also augmented for Queensland Wind Orchestra at Australian National Band and Orchestra Conference Gala - another incredibly fun gig with a hard working and awesome community ensemble! The orchestra also accompanied international percussionist, composer and educator, Nathan Daughtrey, as a soloist for one of his compositions. I was super excited and I felt honoured to be a part of it! Lastly, I came home to my Stairwell Project family at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital. Going into our 5th year, great things are happening as the music brings smiles to faces and minds in the community. We would love your support to help continue this amazing project, so please head to the GoFundMe fundraiser for more information. There is also a website, if you want to read more about it. Lastly, I was a guest on Sundowner Drum Talks hosted by the very awesome, CJ Nash, and I was invited to Sundowner Drum Talks Charity Podcast Live Stream event. The event fundraised money for Beyond Blue and raised up to $258.85 AUD - it really shows what a small community can do for the greater community. You can still go and donate or view the podcast live stream on Sundowner Drum Talks' YouTube page.
As you can see, I didn't perform as much as I have in previous years. I have also been very quiet in terms of my exposure and advertising on my websites. That's because last year I started a new job as a percussion tutor at a beautiful school with amazing students! I absolutely love my job, and I really wanted to focus on it and be a good teacher to the new generation and future of this percussion program. The staff and community are so lovely, and it's become a new home to me. Now that I've settled in, I'm definitely keen to come back to some more playing this year.
I'm currently working on a website for my podcast, Musicians Unmuted, and getting ready to take this project solo and continue podcast episodes and more with this website! I'm keen to start recording music at home for fun, and get into some more solo percussion, piano and vocal works, arrangements and originals - yes, composing! I'm also eager to get back into studying again. I mentioned an online Masters before, but I reconsidered and I'm aiming towards starting a Masters degree in Brisbane later this year. I like face-to-face interaction for my education, and what better place than the home I grew up and know today.
As a result of all my planning for this new year ahead, I decided to have a photoshoot and feel fresh for a new beginning to a new chapter of my story. I'll definitely keep you updated for what's to come, but know that if I'm quiet it's probably because I'm busy working hard and not hardly working! In the mean time, enjoy these photos and go check out my past projects, performances, recordings and documentation through blogs, photos, YouTube and Facebook page! Also feel free to share my contact and websites to all, as I would love to be more involved in the music community whether its performing, teaching or other means of support!
It's been a long journey, since I started this website and began 'Anna Kho Music'. So far I've completed two degrees, I've landed a dream job in teaching, and I feel a new space of positivity and balance. Also for once in my life, I won't be studying this year! So what's to come in 2018, you ask?
Firstly, teaching is most definitely happening. My love for teaching continuously increases every year, and I absolutely love my job! I have never enjoyed teaching so much before, and this year has definitely proven to be the best. My students are all incredible and have so much potential to bloom into beautiful musicians and people. I can't wait to see them grow year by year. I'm blessed with the amazing opportunities I've been given, and I hope to do my best for them all.
Secondly, Musicians Unmuted is definitely continuing into 2018! We've released 10 episodes so far, and episode 11 will be up very soon - many thanks to the hard working Daniel Kassulke, who is currently editing it to perfection. It features Peter Breen, which perfectly sums up our first season of episodes that focused on the future generation of the Brisbane music scene. Peter Breen has been an incredibly supportive member of the community, and is consistently looking out for young artists and musicians by supporting this scene through Jugglers Art Space, The Stairwell Project and his pure kindness and humility. Last year, Musicians Unmuted curated a concert dedicated to Peter Breen with invited performers from our previous episodes throughout the year. It was a successful concert, so we hope to do more of these in 2018 as well as new events, such as open panels and Q&A. Feel free to let us know your feedback on the podcasts!
In terms of my creativity as a performer, I'm sure to get back into it and begin planning my own concerts again. I miss it a lot, and perhaps crave for it. The thrill, adrenaline, and feeling of achievement and contribution to the Brisbane community. The podcast has been an incredible inspiration and influence to me, and a fantastic reminder of why I do what I do. Here is a video below of the final performance in Musicians Unmuted Concert 2018, directed by Jasmin Leung. It is such a beautiful sound in a beautiful space with beautiful people. This is why I love Brisbane, and this is why I chose the path I lead today.
I haven't entirely given up on studying. I think as a human, you are constantly learning and growing no matter your age. I even learn from my students, and that's the beauty of teaching. I want to continue to study for a Masters degree, and hopefully doing so by applying for an overseas university to begin a Masters of Music Psychology in Education in 2019. My dream is to continue teaching and performing, while completing this part time degree online. It will be a new journey of discovery once again, and I'm so excited to get into it.
I've always been a big dreamer, and they seem to keep coming true.
Laugh, Love and Live your dreams!
Another busy year of incredible and memorable moments with beautiful people in the Brisbane music scene. Here are a couple of photos from the events throughout 2017!
This year I was fortunate enough to perform for amazing productions, concerts and events. Due to majority of my time spent completing my Graduate Diploma in Education, not as many gigs occurred this year compared to previous ones. However, it made me appreciate my work more, and put all my effort into one gig at a time. It was a new experience, and I came to really enjoy my time in each rehearsal and performance. It was also my first year out of the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, and at first it felt lonely to not be in that community anymore. Though at the same time, it felt like freedom to explore a new world of independent music as an artist to experiment and explore. Having said that, the demand of this degree allowed me to become more distant to my life as a musician. I practiced less, I played less, and all together my passion and motivation started to fade. Also not being around people who indulged in the music scene was something I missed, which I knew always gave me a boost. So, I guess, that's how Musicians Unmuted was born. I knew this degree would take up a lot of this year, and I promised to keep true to myself throughout it. One thing that always reminded me why I am who I am today was talking to people from the Brisbane music scene. Knowing why we do what we do to contribute back to the community. It started off as an idea, perhaps a personal desire or hobby, and it blossomed into something more than I could have imagined. I really appreciated the discussions, insights and topics that were raised with the podcast guests, and in return they appreciated the platform that allowed their words to be heard. There was also a great response and feedback from the public as well. Towards the end of this year, we celebrated our first year of podcast episodes by holding a concert at Jugglers Art Space. In addition, we also celebrated for Peter Breen, the director of Jugglers Art Space, and everything he has done for the Brisbane community. Of course, I could have never done it without the help of my lovely, hardworking and supportive colleague, Daniel Kassulke.
Although the photos capture the happy moments and the celebratory feeling this year may seem, unfortunately, with sunshine came rain, or shall I say an ongoing storm? This degree took a lot out of me this year. I've never hit so low in life before, and I know I've said that a few times in previous blogs, but I mean it this time. Perhaps for the first time I felt like quitting and accepted the potential faith of failure. I went into the degree lacking passion, motivation and simply tired of studying in the structure of a university. I was filled with doubt and hatred, and hoping it would come to an end. However, I needed this degree, for me and for my family. Along the way, I met new people, people that supported me, people that pushed me through the hardest times, and people that loved me. It made me realise that it wasn't music that I needed all along, but the warmth and love from the people.
Today I am proud to announce that I am a 2017 graduate of University of Queensland, and I have completed my Graduate Diploma in Education. I have a job next year at a beautiful school, I'm continuing my private teaching as well, and ongoing projects, such as Musicians Unmuted, will continue into the new year ahead.
Every year surprises me. I learn new things, I learn more lessons and see life from a different perspective again and again. This year, I learnt what it means to love. I thought I did before, but perhaps that was love for my career rather than it focused on those around me. Sometimes we can forget who we are, and it's those around us who act as mirrors to allow us to reflect.
Laugh, Love, Live to the lessons learnt and those waiting to be experienced!
Every musician has a voice. It can be a journey that all of us go through to find that individual voice. Some musicians don't find it, some musicians do, and some are still developing it. I've been through all these stages in my music career. It can be one of the most frustrating journeys, and sometimes feel like a dead end or may impact your choice to discontinue your music career. Is my voice worth something? Are people listening to my voice? Should I even bother anymore? It can be quite scary.
This all sounds very obnoxious and selfish, but I believe an individual voice and identity is important to musicians and to people in general. It defines who we are and our purpose in our lives and communities. Without it there is no point in waking up or doing something in our everyday lives. I guess, it's difficult for musicians to find a unique voice. Instruments may sound the same, music start to sound similar, and people start seeking a 'position' to fill rather than a 'voice'. In this industry, we start to become products, and the only thing motivating us is the audience, fans and self-satisfaction in what we do. The people give credibility to our voices, and gives us a sense of empowerment to make change through our art. Without feedback, we wouldn't know why we're here in the first place.
I remember the moment when I chose music as a career path, and started taking it seriously. I was performing with my high school percussion ensemble in front of a crowd of thousands, and millions if you counted the audience watching the televised performance. After the performance we got a standing ovation and a roaring cheer from the crowd. I remember standing there thinking, 'Wow, music has such an impact. Something so simple and short can move so many people. Something I loved was loved by others. If this is what it feels like to be a musician, then I want to pursue it. I want to make a change with my music, and continue doing what I love doing.' It was this moment that I felt I had a voice in music, and it meant something.
However, as I became more experienced I began to see the reality of the music industry. To have a voice, meant to have a product. To be labelled as a product kind of feels empty inside, and acts as another number and object in the world. It's because of this reason that I started questioning my voice, and whether its authentic or just another product. You would think an improvised voice in jazz or free improvisation was unique, but the sound is automatically stereotyped to a genre and style. Eventually, you're heard as another voice within that music community - another product.
I started questioning this through my experience with my jazz ensemble. At first, starting jazz felt like having a completely individual and unique voice. Compared to interpreting written classical works, I was arranging my own tunes and improvising with my own voice. I started exploring music further than traditional jazz, only to realise that some people in the audience just want to hear the good old jazz standard. I started viewing my ensemble, at first a free platform to explore and express, now becoming a product of entertainment. I was lost, and uncertain about my purpose in music. I didn't know what my voice was anymore. Was music like this the whole time, and I was just oblivious to it? It couldn't be, because why are all these musicians here in the first place? So what does it take to have a voice?
I started reflecting on all my experiences that I've had. I realised that a voice is having a meaning behind it. When you say something, it's a means of expression, a statement, or something from the heart and mind. It needs to have intention behind it to have presence, and that could mean the voice of a product or means of money making - and that's absolutely okay. As long as it has meaning, then the audience will believe it and so will you. If it doesn't, then what's the point playing music in the first place. For me, I like performing music with a story or idea behind it. My honours graduating recital was themed around the idea of 'Caged Wings', which is my personal story as a musician slowly freeing myself from constraints. For the first time, I also composed a piece for it. It was an incredible experience, and I felt like my voice meant something and people were listening too. Here are the recordings from my recital, which were recorded and mixed by Daniel Kassulke.
I think only recently did I discover that having a voice as a musician, doesn't mean it has to be through peformance. There are so many people out there who have a voice in the music industry through other professions, such as sound engineering, curatoring, managing, producing, directing, editing, educating and so on. They all express their voice and ideas through music, and you don't have to be a performer to do so. Recently, I started a podcast called Musicians Unmuted, and the episodes feature musicians and other professions in the Brisbane music scene to discuss topics and various issues in their lives. It was created by Maya Luski and myself, and recently we were joined by Daniel Kassulke as well. We're all passionate about podcasts and the Brisbane music scene, and we absolutely love our job! It's a non-profit project with so much potential, and we can't wait to see it grow into something amazing for you all to enjoy! Listen to our recent episodes below.
Most importantly, I believe your voice as a person is what's important. The voice, heart and mind is what drives the art, so you need to find yourself first to know what kind of voice you want. I think it's inevitable that life surrounding you will affect your voice, but as long as you stay true to it then it won't lose authenticity. I believe the musician's voice is always changing, because the world is constantly changing. The journey is never ending, and that's the exciting part about it. Every now and then you'll make an impact, and someone listening will take that and make their own impact - the world goes round and round. A voice can do so much, but I guess it doesn't matter unless an ear is nearby to hear it.
Laugh, Love, Live finding your voice!
Another new year means new beginnings! Here we are again, and today this website is 2 years old! Can you believe that!? It's not only a new beginning, but also a whole new chapter in Anna Kho Music. Late last year I graduated from my Bachelor of Music with Honours at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. I'm now studying a new path in music. I'm currently doing my Graduate Diploma in Education at University of Queensland. A new degree, a new university and a whole new campus and community. On my way to becoming a qualified teacher! On top of that there are all new projects coming your way this year! Here's one below:
That's right! I'm starting a new podcast with my friend, Maya Luski, who will be recording and the editing the episodes hosted by myself. There will also be many, many special guests to come! It's a podcast that focuses on the musicians and other professions in the Brisbane music scene, and will also feature different performance venues and upcoming local gigs and projects! Super exciting! You can even follow Musicians Unmuted on Facebook to keep yourself updated with the podcast episodes and more information on our beautiful music community in Brisbane.
Of course, Anna Kho Music room and private teaching still continues. If you're keen to get lessons, please feel free to contact me. This year I'm teaching percussion (mallets, snare, timpani and drum kit) and piano to new and ongoing students of all ages. They're a delightful bunch of passionate and aspiring musicians, which I can't wait to see them all progress this year. A couple of students are preparing for AMEB, Trinity or music school exams, and others are continuing their love for the instrument and music!
Gigs have already started this year with Anna Kho-tet kicking it off in February at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University on 21st Feb 2017. The concert was featured in a new concert series that I'll be running this year called 'Clazzical'. It is a concert series that brings together the world of classical and jazz music and musicians. It's time we celebrate cross-genre musicians, and their love and talent in both of the genres. Please message me, if you want to hear more about the concert or participate in it as a performer! On top of that, there will be many more exciting gigs coming your way. I've been invited to play with Nonsemble again at a Dots+Loops concert on May 19th 2017, which I'll be a featured percussion soloist alongside Jamee Seeto. We'll be performing my all time favourite, Above Ground by Robert Davidson, but this time all the movements! I'm so excited!!!! Definitely go check that out, and keep updated with the gigs and projects on this website or through my Facebook page.
Missed out on gigs from last year? That's all good! Some of them are uploaded onto my Soundcloud and YouTube channel. So go check them out! Here's one below:
Is there more? Of course there's always room for more! This won't be consistent, but I'm hoping to experiment with solo vocal and vibraphone. This is quite new to me, and I'm keen to give it a go. I want to focus on some more solo works in my free time, so I can expand my vocabulary and work on my own technique, expression and voice. I can't wait to get things going, and even compose some original works soon too! I'm keen to share you my music, and hopefully get some feedback for it too!
As you can see, 2017 will be filled with music in all shapes and forms. It'll be a busy year, but a thrilling one for sure. I hope you enjoy the music and projects that I'm sharing, and I hope to see you in the future at one of them too!
Laugh, Love, Live to new beginnings!
Ego. No one really likes that word, especially if it's directed at you. It's almost offensive, like an attack to your being and purpose in life. The more I observe my surroundings, especially the musicians around me, the more 'ego' I see and how common it is among musicians, and people in general. Ego, however, is important to an artist. You need it to gain confidence and drive your passion. It goes hand in hand with pride, and is perhaps one of the most vulnerable aspects an artist can possess.
I guess I wanted to bring it up, because it is so common. It's like the elephant in the room, and some people just don't want to admit it to each others' faces. It's due to the negative connotation we have with the word, and admitting it would be degrading our own status. I guess. People don't tend to talk about the negative things in life, but I do for reflection. So continue reading if you do too or if you're interested to know where this is going.
The point of this blog is because I went through quite a drastic change last year. Well, actually, across four years at my university. It only hit me the most in my last year, and I've become very aware of it. I'm talking about ego. Ego within myself.
I guess a lot of people watch movies or read books and assume ego to be the villain. It's usually the person who is blinded by their ego, which is the cause of their poor actions that lead to consequences. It could also be seen as someone being 'full of themselves', 'selfish', or usually someone at a higher status unable to acknowledge anyone below them. Or the dictionary puts it: ego (noun), a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance. However, have you ever thought about ego in good people, or the hero of the story? I know that sounds quite ironic, but the more I see it, the more it's becoming reality and the truth. I believe some kind hearted people believe that doing something right, makes them a better person. Makes them the 'good' person. In a way, it can be selfish. Sometimes people continue to do good deeds to fill up their need for compliments and appreciation. I know this sounds a bit strange, but hear me out.
Have you ever thought about people who don't want your help? People who have been through something that you wouldn't understand? People that want to go on this journey alone, without you. Or simply people who don't think alike. It's something I realised in my first year at university. It was the first time I saw ego in myself, and in an extreme way. I always wanted to help my fellow colleagues, because it's what I've been used to throughout my education. Tell them what to practice, tell them what to do. Clearly, I became quite bossy, and pretty much a 'bitch' - excuse the language. I couldn't understand it properly until I placed myself in their shoes. Then it all made sense. Sometimes people don't want your help, and that's okay. Maybe you feel special helping people, and it adds to your value and purpose as a person. That's what happened to me, and this is just one aspect of the good people's version of 'ego'.
Now the word 'special'. It's the status we all want to indulge in. To be in demand, to be unique, to be what everyone needs and wants, because you're special. It's what artists crave for. We want to be versatile, we want to stand out, we want to be what everyone is looking at. The spotlight, the star, the change in people's lives. We live off it. Well, I know I do. It's hard to admit. First, to yourself. Second, to your peers. Third, to the world. Hi, my name's Anna, and I have ego. I do know people who are delusional of their own ego, and I also know people who embrace it and acknowledge they have ego. Both are people who can be interpreted as good, and also bad. It's a human thing, I guess. I think having ego is healthy, but too much is not. Self awareness of the positives and negatives in life is what makes a person balanced and healthy. There is no sides. There is just you and your perception of what you are, and influenced by the opinions of your peers too.
Now I know this all sounds bias, but I discovered this through my research for my honours dissertation. It is titled 'Fear of Expression: A Mixed Method Analysis of the Causes of Music Performance Anxiety in Improvising Classical, Jazz and Cross-Genre Tertiary Percussionists'. Evidently, it focused on music performance anxiety, and that includes 'ego'! The more literature I read, the more it made sense. I have ego. I have pride. I have vulnerability in my status as a musician, AND as a person. I feared it being degraded or diminished by what I perceived as threats in practice, performance, music and life. You know what? That's okay! It's quite normal, especially because as artists we express our heart and mind to others. We're vulnerable on stage, and to receive negative feedback for it actually affects us as a person too. Music is who we are, and we are the music.
I'm at heart a self-conscious, low self-esteem, negative and judgmental character. Through music I've developed a stronger character to hide these factors, but they still live within me. It's just who I am. At first, I hated it. I was so upset and angry that I allowed myself to become this person, but they balance my overly optimistic side driven by passion that at times can be unaware of reality. Being aware of these characteristics and using them to your advantage with balance can assist you enormously.
During my research last year, I attended counselling sessions at my university. That's something I highly recommend to anyone and even if it's for a tiny issue, because it probably isn't. It was recommended and brought to my attention through a teacher of mine, and I decided to do it. I had never done anything like this before, but it was so worth it.
One day, I was found crying in the hallway due to feeling like a burden. At the time I had sprained both my knee ligaments. I was disabled and unable to transport gear, to practice standing for long hours, or even walk to another place without pain. I felt incredibly powerless for the first time in my life, and a 'nothing' to people around me. Most of the time I got pity faces and sympathy, and I do not like that at all. By that time I also knew I suffered anxiety and depression. I'm vulnerable at heart, but I like putting on a strong persona to my peers. In public, you want to show people who you want to be, and not who you really are. I guess, I always see myself as the one giving 200% to everything I do, but it turned out to stress my health and pushed me back to 0%. I was in need of a recharge, a time to finally rest. Health, for the first time, became priority over everything, including music which was my life. I'm a workaholic and my work shapes who I am, and also my value and existence as a person. For people to tell me to stop and do nothing, I just couldn't. It was too abnormal to my life style at the time, and as you can see it was also due to my ego.
In my first counselling session, I expressed my feelings of being a burden. My counselor in response said, 'Is it because you feel special?' Special? I thought. What do you mean? I'm simply wanting to help others, and doing my very best at it too. She continued, 'Couldn't someone else replace your position? Do they really need you to continue doing what they need to do?'. I hesitated, and thought about it for a while. The answer was clearly, 'yes'. However, my ego needed a few minutes to let it sink in. Yes, I wasn't special. Yes, someone can replace me. Yes, they don't actually need me. It sounds a bit sad, but it's the truth. I guess, in a way it also meant you come first now. Your health comes first, and not the need to satisfy your ego. It was like the curtains opened, the fog lifted, the light shone in, and I finally saw it. I have ego and it happens to everyone, even those who thought they were kind or good at heart. I knew it was time for a change.
At my second and last counselling session, I expressed to my counselor that I want to do quality gigs from now on, not quantity. The number of performances is another factor of ego, and I didn't like that controlling and stressing my health. I want to put 100% and more to every gig I do, even if it's only a few gigs in a whole year. In comparison to a few percentages here and there in numerous gigs occurring simultaneously. That way the performances are likely to be successful, and valued with effort and appreciation. It will also positively influence my musical journey. It avoids being upset at terrible outcomes, and as a result, it will decrease negative thoughts and stop disrespecting myself. The counselor looked at me for a while, and then smiled. She could see change, and praised me for it. Of course, my ego was happy to receive it. Praise is something we also live off. Mostly cause of parents and education, but that's a whole other topic.
Anyways, this has been a very long blog, but it was something I wanted to get off my chest. It's something I've thought about for quite a while. For so long I've judged other people's egos, and now I'm working on myself and seeing my own. Not entirely changed, but definitely starting it. It's refreshing and healthy. Health is my priority now, and is the foundation to my approach in practice, performance, music and life. If you aren't mentally or physically stable and well, then you should stop and sort yourself out first. To live is to love, and to love is to live. Your pure existence comes first, because without it there wouldn't be a 'you'. Ego is perception, but life is real. From time to time, stop and step back. Look at your life and reflect, because it could save you one day. It did to mine.
Laugh, Love, Live, and Reflect.
This blog is a space to share my thoughts, past, present and future moments in my life. Feel free to leave a comment, like the blog or share it! - Anna