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Alexander Carpenter

ENC 1101


Boundless Music

Every artist has experiences creative blocks. Writers, painters, and musicians have each

had these moments. While in the moment a creative block can be incredibly frustrating, once

overcome it can also prompt a great sense of triumph and fulfillment. My journey learning music

has now spanned over a majority of my life, encompassing an immense number of trials which

have challenged me to constantly reinvent my perception of how I learn music. This process

includes adopting strategies that I use to innovate my musical abilities indefinitely. While most

people tackle creative blocks in isolation, my musical creative blocks were rarely fought alone.

Throughout my musical experiences I have had the opportunity to gain inspiration from a

multitude of sponsors who have helped me develop both extensive musical capabilities as well as

a sense of direction; to strive towards a goal or purpose to continuously develop my passion of

playing music.

There are two major influences in my musical career who have been vital factors in my

growth as a musician, who consist of my father and my public school system. While it is an odd

comparison on the surface, both of these sponsors played an instrumental role in overcoming my

first major creative block, that of a severe lack of motivation. The first half of my life was rather

uneventful in terms of learning to play music. However, these years were foundational in

establishing my passion of music. During my early childhood, for example, I quickly came to

understand that my father had a unique role in the musical world. Since its creation in 1992, he

has been the principal tuba player for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. I was constantly
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surrounded by live classical music as well as tubas. As a child, I fondly remember walking

through a quite literal forest of brass instruments in my home. They would be strewn about the

living room, in various shapes and sizes, and anyone would be lucky to not to trip over one.

Through elementary school I received no private or professional training in playing a musical

instrument. I did receive a basic education in music history throughout elementary school, which

was reinforced by listening to classical music when I was at home.

I began my journey playing music in the sixth grade, my first year beyond elementary

school. It was at this jump between child and slightly bigger child with acne that I considered

starting to play music as opposed to only listening to music and some slight interpretation. The

International Baccalaureate program (IB) at the then named Robert E. Lee middle school

required that all participating students in the program join a musical discipline, whether it be the

orchestra, chorus, or band. Because of this requirement, I chose to be a part of the band program.

I played trombone and later tuba because of one major factor; I knew that I would have more

opportunities in addition to resources for band/low brass instruments with the help of my father,

therefore enjoying the learning process more.

Immediately these two influences began working in tandem to help me succeed. My

middle school band director provided me with an environment suited to learn how to learn the

basics of playing music in both solo and group scenarios, while my father provided me a tuba to

play on as well as occasional lessons to help me keep up with the expectations of the class.

Despite an essentially perfect combination for beginning to learn how to play music, I still

eventually ran into a creative wall.

Due to the nature of learning to play music, the beginning is often the most arduous

chapter of the journey. Much like other fundamental elementary subjects such as math or
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reading, learning to play music with no previous experience often involves a great amount of

repetition and practice of basic techniques. In my experience, this translated to performing

repetitive basic exercises including playing the same pitch for extended periods of time until you

are in tune with all others you happen to be playing with. In a room full of other students who

are also new to playing music, this process may take several hours. These sometimes infuriating

experiences conflicted with my initial expectations of what learning to play music would be like.

What was especially frustrating and what would contribute the most to my first considerable

creative block was that my lesser physical capabilities of playing music at that time could not

match the music that I was envisioning.

Throughout my childhood, I had an immense breadth of understanding of how band and

orchestral music should sound and most definitely how a tuba should sound. Since I was born

there was seldom a day where I was not listening to my father playing the tuba. Since my father

played in the Orlando Philharmonic, I had a front row seat at the Bob Carr Theater listening to

rehearsals and performances of beautiful pieces of music. I rarely missed a performance and one

of my most cherished memories was when I listened to Tchaikovskys Nutcracker for the first

time live and being moved to tears by the performance. The professionals played with a

masterful sense of subtlety and musicality.

Consequently, there was a juxtaposition between what I underwent in band class and

what I was accustomed to listening to, creating a mental block where I was unmotivated to

practice. I saw no point in trying to play like my father if I was physically incapable of doing so.

In spite of this dilemma, both my father and my school successfully encouraged me to continue

forward studying music. My father supported me through teaching me musical techniques that

offered variety apart from what was taught in the classroom. The school, on the other hand,
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rewarded me for my musical efforts by offering me the chance to play more complex music in

more advanced groups. I was also given opportunities to play for county and statewide audiences

depending on how well I practiced.

The incentives my initial sponsors provided me validated my work practices. This helped

conquer my lack of motivation, my first substantial creative block. The feeling of overcoming

this creative block felt like a second wind; I began waking up each day excited to play and make

music and would practice so intensely that my mouthpiece would leave a red ring on my face

from the pressure. Practicing in this manner over a long period of time did lead to lesser

moments of motivation loss due to burnout. However, these moments were few and far between

as my musical influences continuously challenged me with new techniques and music to learn

through the end of my middle school career. For the time being I was satisfied with what I was

learning as with any art form, there was always more to learn and even more people to learn

from. This principle was both the cause and the solution to my second significant creative block.

My second and most recent paramount creative block arrived in a similar manner to my

first. Aside from my previous creative block, this one did not arise solely from a lack of

motivation; rather it originated from another factor, creative boredom. Unlike my first major

creative block, this sense of boredom did not originate from a discrepancy between what I

envisioned playing and what I was accustomed to hearing. By the beginning of my sophomore

year of high school I was a member of the top band ensemble as well as my schools own

philharmonic orchestra. By no means was I an extraordinarily accomplished musician, but I did

perform my role well enough to justify my positions. The situation I found myself in was that I

fulfilled my role as a tuba player in these groups without much challenge. While the music I
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played in these groups was interesting, I was no longer struggling as much as I did when I was

first beginning to learn how to play music.

Contrary to what I expected to feel, which was continuous satisfaction with my playing

ability, I instead felt a lack of accomplishment because I was no longer learning at an accelerated

pace. It was, at this point, that my father encouraged me to attend the Boston University

Tanglewood Institute (BUTI) to further train my musical abilities and expand my number of

musical resources (sponsors). This experience gave me the opportunity to study music alongside

my father as well as the principal tuba players of the Boston, Brevard, and Detroit Symphony

Orchestras. During my time there I learned quickly that there was still a near infinite amount of

information I can learn about music. I discovered that being literate at playing music goes

beyond being able to interpret symbols on a page, but that there are multiple dimensions to being

musically literate, including but not limited to musical playing, stage presence, arranging,

instrument repair, instrument manufacturing, composing, and interpretation. I focused my time

particularly to establish the new dimension of stage presence to my musical repertoire, learning

from masters of the art how to not only play well on the instrument, but to perform and entertain

in front of large, diverse audiences.

While I was attempting to assimilate all of the technical knowledge I could in the short

two weeks I was a part of BUTI, perhaps the greatest lesson there was to learn I discovered for

myself. Due to my relationship with my father I had the opportunity to speak with and learn

more about the masters I was studying under. I found that professional musicians have all helped

each other at one point or another to succeed and overcome their own creative blocks. The prime

example was that all of the professional musicians I studied under developed their own collective

practice routine that has practices added to it constantly for the purpose of challenging each other
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to become greater musicians. From this I began to digest how artists and tuba players especially

become each others sponsors, creating a unique sense of community that strives to help each

other become better artists. Furthermore, I took the more conceptual ideas regarding music being

a multi-dimensional art form that I learned from BUTI and began implementing them when I

returned home. This revelation went beyond breaking down my creative block and began

expanding my artistic desires. I suddenly had the motivation to practice even more feverously

and began to perform for larger audiences. In this pursuit, the number of musical sponsors I

benefitted from increased dramatically as I continued to hone and advertise my musical abilities.

The culmination of my steady practice and renewed motivation was the opportunity to perform

with groups such as Youth Band of Orlando in Germany, and the Winter Park Wind Ensemble in

Carnegie Hall. While creative blocks are an inevitability with any art, and can happen to varying

degrees, I have found that as long as you have the drive to develop your art and the

determination to seek out more artistic knowledge from sponsors, there exists no limit for artistic