Last week, I briefly discussed the importance of setting goals that reflect our artistic needs and desires. When we choose our aspirations wisely, we can better enjoy traveling along our career paths. We are better able to distinguish between true setbacks and temporary diversions. I find the best goals are those that allow for me to be easily sidetracked.


Often, I find that I can become functionally myopic. I slowly creep from one task to the next one in the queue. As my schedule fills, I take less and less time to consider options outside of this very narrow path. On those occasions when many projects need my full attention, this single-mindedness can be a most utile asset. But once I fall into the habit of moving forward within proscribed boundaries, I find that it can be very difficult to jolt myself into even considering secondary options.

For me, it’s very important to leave myself open to following these sidetracks. The vagaries of chance can create possibilities that I never would have pursued on my own, and often these initially unperceived paths are the most fruitful. When presented with a fantastic bassoonist who wants to play anything that I can dream up, I found myself writing some pieces that I consider among my most successful for this oft-neglected instrument that always had frightened me when I would try to incorporate it into ensembles. A commission that came out of left field initially introduced me to the toy piano, and a chance conversation started my secondary interest in improvising extended techniques for that instrument. Indeed, I can trace my entire career in music to another chance encounter when I was in high school that led me to my first experience composing.

While these alternate byways in actuality might be the best roads towards my larger goals, I often find it difficult to turn away from the route I carefully mapped. Emotionally, I want to continue traveling along the path that I’ve researched, that I know will bring me to a certain place.

As I set goals and as I consider what artistic possibilities I would like to pursue, I need to remember that sometimes the best opportunities are those for which I’m unprepared. When an inviting alternative route presents itself, it’s important to be able to explore that sidetrack.

NewMusicBox provides a space for those engaged with new music to communicate their experiences and ideas in their own words. Articles and commentary posted here reflect the viewpoints of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply endorsement by New Music USA.

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