Chaos Management / by David Byrd-Marrow


One of the well known delights of being a freelancer is, of course, the variety of styles we encounter throughout the concert season. In New York, these stylistic extremes can be quite radical. This week I'm finding myself rather shellshocked by this phenomenon, although it could also just be the fact that the weather sucks butt this weekend. Without going too much into detail, I went from playing free improv at the Jazz Gallery to playing Chausson solos in an orchestra, and the transition left me a bit dazed and confused. 

I met Yo-Yo Ma again last week, while recording with The Knights. The first time was when I was in high school. He was playing a concerto with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and was kind enough to drop by my school, on a Saturday morning, for a crowd of about twelve people. We sat there, and he played and answered questions for over an hour. Then he went on about his day as Yo-Yo does. This is the characteristic that makes him special. Generosity. He's never daunted by the thought of never-ending workday, or a crazy travel schedule that's bookended by concerts. Most everyone is wowed by his musicianship. He is maybe the greatest cellist, and perhaps one of the greatest musicians to have ever lived. But, if you've ever seen him offstage during breaks and commutes and meals, these are the times where you start to wonder with serious amazement "How does he do this??".  

Generosity. Yo-Yo's energy comes from a place of selfless availability. I heard a story during the week, that someone in the orchestra had played another concert with him before. During this series, there was a day that Yo-Yo had to play Strauss' Don Qixote twice in the same day. Upon completion, he was asked how he never gets tired. As I was told, the answer was that he realized at a certain point in his career that much would be expected of him, and he decided to meet the task and never tire of it. Whoa. 

I mention Yo-Yo not just because I recently worked with him, but also because he is a great example of someone who has to consistently be flexible. So, since it's impossible for me to know very much about the way Yo-Yo's mind works, what if I assumed that the source his limitless energy was also the source of his limitless musicianship? What would happen if I approached my career from a spirit of willingness and availability to those around me. What kind of person does this create? How would that change my life? To us humans the thought of it might seem exhausting, but it's also a little inspiring, and I think somewhere in that inspiration is the blueprint for this lifestyle choice. It seems like a totally viable way to approach the sometimes chaotic freelance life. When the notes just won't stop coming, embrace them (yack, I know, but I really do believe this).

All this being said, perhaps the best way to deal with the turmoil that life throws you, musical or not, is to make yourself fully available to it. Welcome it.