Another installment in the series of posts of the WCWW scholarship contest winners and runners-up! Today’s post is written by Diana Rumrill, one of our scholarship runners-up. Enjoy!
I knew for years that my aspect of world changing is how the world approaches music. I just didn’t know how it could possibly be done, and in college, I thought I had to make the classic choice of any artist: love OR money? I majored in physical therapy.
Before then, I loved to sing and play musical instruments more than anything in the world. I was in every musical ensemble I could manage. Music taught me life. I learned the power of community through singing in groups of women, doing a fundraising concert for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan after September 11th. I learned how singing a song from South African freedom fighters could connect me to their struggle. I learned how to imagine beauty and bring it to life when I finally could play “Spring” from the Four Seasons by Vivaldi. I learned that music could hold and express feelings I never knew I had when tears streamed down my face learning the words of “Danny Boy”. In the darkest times music made me feel the possibility of beauty and joy, listening to Paul Simon or Leonard Bernstein or TLC.
For a few years, I did study voice at a conservatory. It was truly like a love relationship that I couldn’t let go – I knew I had to somehow make music work. By then, I was an outsider to the music world, and I noticed some things about this system I was trying so hard to be a part of. Music students considered it a badge of honor to spend hours upon hours each day in a practice room, alone, repeating passages so that in a performance they would sound perfect. There was scarcity and fear everywhere. Success meant needing to be flawless with harder and harder pieces, to impress judges at competitions and auditions for a limited number of prestigious and high pressure jobs in orchestras and operas. I saw many musicians get repetitive strain injuries and have to quit altogether, or suffer secretly. People got terrified instead of excited before performing on stage. Drugs or alcohol were one answer, and many, including myself, decided they couldn’t take the stress of repeated performances.
Looking around, we all know it definitely isn’t confined to classical musicians. It’s a cliche in the rock and popular worlds to enter rehab for all the substances that help musicians get out on stage and keep up with the grueling pace of success.
A pianist, successful at a very well-known music school, told me that many musicians he knew ended up hating the instruments they loved so much and ended up sacrificing everything else in life to be successful at playing. Is this where the music we love so much comes from?
Now, I’m a physical therapist who helps musicians who do get injured as a result of the repetitive strain of playing. My baby business, Harmonious Bodies, is just over a year old. But I think it’s people’s thinking that needs to change in order to bring music back to power, joy, and connecting. I want to know why success in music needs to be a competition, why practice has to equal painful and lonely repetition, and why opportunities for those who love music need to be scarce and unattainable.
For that matter, why do we love to see people’s musical imperfections ripped apart on American Idol? Why is the thought of performing in public as scary or worse to most folks as public speaking? Why is “talent” a prerequisite for making music when every five year old knows they can sing? Why is most people’s enjoyment of music restricted as a result to listening to highly produced recordings of other people only? Why couldn’t anybody at all reclaim their connection to the Great Musician by being one?
We are all touched by music, every single day. It’s what gets us through the workday, our drives and commutes; we dance, chill out, perk up, do yoga, exercise, and hang out with loved ones to it. It’s time to examine what it really is and could be for all of us.
Diana Rumrill plays a variety of instruments, sings, and is a physical therapist who loves to work with musicians to play and sing with freedom. She took the World Changing Writing Workshop in order to rewrite the stories the world tells about what it takes to be a musician. At her website, you can find out more about working one on one in the DC area, workshop opportunities, or simply stop in to listen to a variety of podcast interviews on musicians’ health!