Afonso writes that he wants to become a master organist, like Olivier Latry, Daniel Roth, Philippe Lefebvre, Jean-Pierre Leguay, Jean Guillou, or Pierre Pincemaille and to play a great Cavaillé-Coll instruments such as at Saint Sulpice, Notre Dame, St. Ouen, and to study at the Conservatoire Supérieur de Paris. His question is about whether or not can he achieve all this?
I can feel the pain Afonso has - it follows probably every organist I know (including myself). Can we become successful at what we do? Are we even worthy of success?
We read about the masters of the past and present and many of us want to be like them, want to play large and important organs, be respected, feel the appreciation and connection with the audience, and yes, make a living doing what we love most.
Apart from being our goal and driving force, these ideas can be our trials, too. The short answer is of course this - sure, we can become the masters like the other great organists, provided we are willing to work at least as hard, as long, and as focused as our role-models were or even more.
In the midst of those trials, when we feel this pain, sometimes there comes a certain moment of bliss. It doesn't last long but the memory of it sticks with us for a long time. This is the realization that in the end it's all going to be OK. And not only at the end, but also now, as you are experiencing this moment, you are content. You are happy because at that moment you briefly experience your end-result, your goal, your dream.
For me, one of such moments was just before one of my doctoral recitals at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, when I was waiting at the back of St. Paul's United Methodist Church which has a wonderful French symphonic style Bedient organ in it. About 10 minutes before the start I felt such calmness and focus, that the memory of this feeling never left me ever since. This short moment was what my dream was at the time.
I can compare this feeling with the one when you first learn how to ride a bicycle - the moment when you realize that you are actually riding by yourself without the help of your mom or dad. You realize that this moment won't last long, because you will fall - you are not a master bicycle rider yet. But surely you remember this joy when you feel the wind blowing into your face and the shining sun and how proud your mom or dad was of you.
Look for these moments of bliss even in your trials, even when you doubt your ability to reach your dream. In fact, if you can imagine it even for a brief moment, the chance of reaching it becomes incredibly higher. If you can imagine yourself sitting at the bench of the large Cavaille-Coll organ and improvising like the master (with as many intricate details as possible) - it's no longer a dream - it's part of the future you are creating for yourself.
The future starts in your mind.
Part III: Andante Recit. (p. 9) from Organ Sonata No. 1, in F minor, Op. 65 by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) who was a German composer, pianist, organist, and conductor of the early Romantic Period.
Happy the Man Who Feareth God
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