Turning pages is powerful. It gives us strength and focus. I believe that, by turning pages, we grow.
In 2005 I turned pages for pianist Natalie Zhu as she and violinist Hilary Hahn performed. Driving home that night I realized that all of my other beliefs — in the power of beauty and fear, the necessity of questioning, the value of collaboration, the importance of social justice — are reinforced, more, given life, when I turn pages.
Turning pages stimulates me. Listening to the subtleties of a pianist’s interpretation opens my mind to new possibilities in old friends like Dvorak, Poulenc and Fauré. My understanding acquires patina. We aren’t arrested in time upon arriving at the page’s end — because we can turn.
A beloved music professor taught me the advantage of resisting. In fast tempi, inexperienced performers often yield to the impulse to gain speed. Resisting it brings you to the bottom of the page at just the right moment, revitalized, ready to investigate more deeply. You avoid falling into an abyss without the awareness to hear what is happening around you. Your senses are heightened, your understanding enhanced.
Turning pages celebrates the power of collaboration. The soloist and collaborative pianist are equals working intimately to bring a shared view to their audience. Although I press no piano keys and don’t gauge the bow’s pressure on the violin’s string, I actively support others’ efforts. We’re pieces in a large puzzle of conscious minds listening to notes in time — and hearing something much more compelling than mere notes.
Twenty years ago my career as a collaborative pianist ended with an injury to my hands. Months of uncertainty, physical therapy and pain constituted the initial part of the process. More important were the gifts that followed. Chronic pain from the original injury is itself a reminder to turn the page. It goads me not to focus on myself and now, but to look beyond perceived limitations to the future.
By losing one career I discovered another. Now working in the social sector, I still collaborate, see more through others’ eyes, find lasting satisfaction in service. Nonprofits let me help build a stronger world.
Success requires being willing to explore once we’ve absorbed what the previous pages held. Like the slower process of seasons shifting, we turn only when prepared.
As I absorb insights from others who’ve shared their beliefs, I’m grateful. They help me experience the power of beauty, the importance of questioning, the value of working together, and the consequences of social justice. I remind myself to listen acutely to those whose experiences are different from my own — so that I will be able to hear what lies on the next page.
That’s where understanding comes from — people’s insights. The composer Meredith Monk said, “That inner voice has both gentleness and clarity. So to get to authenticity, you really keep going down to the bone, to the honesty, and the inevitability of something.”
It’s life’s inevitability I welcome by turning the page!
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