loving the bomb

Improv comedy and classical music may seem like two very disparate worlds, but certain principles about performance–about sharing yourself and your work with an audience–remain true across the board. It’s always enlightening to hear great performers, from any field, share about their processes and philosophies. This GQ interview with Stephen Colbert is intimate, descriptive, and even profound.

“Our first night professionally onstage,” he said, the longtime Second City director Jeff Michalski told them that the most important lesson he could pass on to them was this: “You have to learn to love the bomb.”

“It took me a long time to really understand what that meant,” Colbert said. “It wasn’t ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get it next time.’ It wasn’t ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says. You gotta learn to love when you’re failing.… The embracing of that, the discomfort of failing in front of an audience, leads you to penetrate through the fear that blinds you. Fear is the mind killer.”…

He said he trained himself, not just onstage but every day in life, even in his dream states, to steer toward fear rather than away from it. “I like to do things that are publicly embarrassing,” he said, “to feel the embarrassment touch me and sink into me and then be gone. I like getting on elevators and singing too loudly in that small space. The feeling you feel is almost like a vapor. The discomfort and the wishing that it would end that comes around you. I would do things like that and just breathe it in.” He stopped and took in a deep yogic breath, then slowly shook his head. “Nope, can’t kill me. This thing can’t kill me.”

It can’t kill you. Sometimes courage comes when your love for something outweighs the embarrassment and discomfort of failing, and no matter how experienced a performer you are, it’s good for most of us to be reminded of this. Read the whole article here for more insights into Colbert’s work process, and a surprisingly emotional discussion about suffering and acceptance, and gratefulness and loving God.

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to dma or not to dma? (#4)

Source: PHD Comics

To DMA or not to DMA? In response to my own uncertainties about the future after I finish up my master’s, I wanted to start a series where I ask my older, wiser, cooler friends about their experiences with and opinions on the DMA. And then publish these responses in hopes that they will help others asking the same question. To read previous installments, click here!

This installment comes courtesy of Dan, the boyfriend of one of my good friends! I thought he would be a great interview candidate because he’s wrapping up his dissertation, and he comes from the perspective of an orchestral player (because in case you haven’t noticed, the previous interviews have all been a little piano-heavy)… Continue reading

a talk with leon fleisher

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“There was a great Hungarian violinist, Sándor Végh, who became a conductor after he left the Végh Quartet. He said, ‘It’s not too difficult to find a string player who really sings on his instrument, but it’s very rare to find a string player who speaks on his instrument,’ and I think that’s a profound distinction. Speaking involves inflection, it involves an understanding of the language. Too many young people today play their instruments most wonderfully – they have such command of their instrument – but it’s as though they’re speaking a foreign language, phonetically. They pronounce all the words, but they have no idea of what they’re saying. And I think that’s one of the big differences between the great artists of the time and this level of expertise that is constantly expanding and rising.”

Read the full interview here.

to dma or not to dma? (#3)

Source: PHD Comics

To DMA or not to DMA? In response to my own uncertainties about the future after I finish up my master’s, I wanted to start a series where I ask my older, wiser, cooler friends about their experiences with and opinions on the DMA. And then publish these responses in hopes that they will help others asking the same question. To read previous installments, click here!

This week’s installment is contributed by my good friend Tom Lee:

Continue reading

to dma or not to dma? (#2)

Source: PHD Comics

To DMA or not to DMA? In response to my own uncertainties about the future after I finish up my master’s, I wanted to start a series where I ask my older, wiser, cooler friends about their experiences with and opinions on the DMA. And then publish these responses in hopes that they will help others asking the same question. To read the first installment, click here!

This time around, my sweet friend Grace Huang volunteered her thoughts! Having finished her other degrees in Taiwan before coming to the USA for a DMA (which is now close to the point of completion), she offers a uniquely helpful perspective for international students. Continue reading

to dma or not to dma? (#1)

Source: PHD Comics

To DMA or not to DMA? This question has been bobbing around in my head for the past few months as I’ve seen friends run the gauntlet of DMA auditions, talked with other friends about finishing up their doctorates or applying for jobs, and wrapped up my first year as a master’s student (it passed so quickly!). In response to my own uncertainties about the future after I finish up my master’s (no, I didn’t say quarter-life crisis…who said quarter-life crisis?), I wanted to start a series where I ask my older, wiser, cooler friends about their experiences with and opinions on the DMA. And then publish these responses in hopes that they will help others asking the same question.

My good friend Brooks Tran agreed to be my guinea pig for this project! So without further ado: Continue reading