Rediscovering music

By , August 12, 2011 5:18 am

I’m sitting on a plane from LA to Chicago. This is my fifth flight in the last two months, having already been to New York, Ohio, Florida, and California, and it’s probably about time I explain what the hell I’m doing, as I have friends and family who have seen various confusing status updates I’ve posted on Facebook and Twitter whom I owe the full story.

Just over two years ago, I blogged about taking a leap of faith and turning down two great jobs because they didn’t involve doing something I was truly passionate about. It was a gamble, but even after two months I could tell it was going to pay off. Sure enough, two years later, I found myself with a wealth of new experience and knowledge which I’d had a ton of fun acquiring, plus a healthy boost to my CV and set of friends and connections within the industry.

Then the stars aligned again, and I found myself with another life-changing dilemma: take an even more awesome job than the one I was in, or quit IT altogether and face an indefinite period of zero income. Pretty obvious what to do, right? I quit.

If that sounds crazy, it’s because it probably was – definitely another leap into the unknown. But I’ll try to explain my decision. I’ve had a number of life-changing decisions to make over the years, and I’m gradually learning to trust my gut instincts in those moments, because they’re generally right. I think they work out well because they’re usually based on my need to keep doing things I love doing (or to put it another way, my pathetic lack of tolerance for things I don’t enjoy), rather than concerns about money and other tedious “real world” distractions.

But wait, I hear you ask – didn’t I just say I decided not to pursue an even more awesome job than the one I loved doing for the last two years? How could my instincts guide me away from that? There are two parts to the answer.

Firstly, I had a bit of luck recently which combined with existing savings and investments meant that I could afford not to work for a while. Secondly, I’ve had an itch for a long time to play more music, and it just wouldn’t go away. In fact it kept growing and growing, until (20 years later than would have been ideal) I identified it as a basic need that I’m stuck with for good. When I say “play more music”, I don’t mean the kind where you go off and play along with CDs in your bedroom every now and again, or join an amateur orchestra. That’s enough for some people, and I totally respect that – but for some reason (false pride, perhaps) I could never bear to think of myself as a hobbyist musician. For better or worse, I only ever enjoy playing music when I’m playing to the best of my ability, and experiencing real progress.

Unfortunately, in music as with many things in life, progress requires hard grind – the standard blood, sweat and tears formula. Jazz musicians call it “shedding” which is short for “woodshedding”, because the idea is you lock yourself in a woodshed for 6 months and practice non-stop. If a 15 year career in IT has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t develop your musicianship quickly alongside a full-time job outside music. So I quit. Or at least, I’m taking sabbatical. To be honest I have no idea what will happen. Maybe I’ll go back to IT full-time, maybe part-time, maybe never. Right now I’m just focusing on studying, practising, playing with other people … whatever I can do to improve.

I decided that I’m most interested in developing my non-classical skills, especially jazz but also various types of folk, pop, Indian, and whatever else takes my fancy. I’ve played (Western) classical music my whole life and had some of the most incredible experiences from it, but now I want to explore what can be done on the cello outside that – cello is such a versatile instrument and there’s a whole new sound world which is a mostly untrodden path at this point.

That’s all I have time for now, but I’ll blog again soon about the amazing experiences I’ve already had around the USA in the last two months – I have a whole ton of photos, audio and video, so watch this space!

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3 Responses to “Rediscovering music”

  1. Bhogilal Hirani (BP) says:

    Very interesting read… All the very best..

  2. Andreas Georgiou says:

    Wow Una send me here and it is truly an interesting story!

  3. Brandon says:

    Hey Adam

    It is fun to hear about what you have been up to since you left the team. I would never have thought you were a musician from your incredible talent in IT. I am in the same mindset as you…I love to create..and love learning new things which is why I switched teams…not nearly as ambitious as you but it has been really fun learning new things and technologies.

    Your new path sounds really fun too. I know you will do great and it really is true that there are so many things to explore with a cello in music. I just saw a concert last night with one of the opening acts doing amazing things just on the piano and using techniques I had never really seen before (the guy is named elew) and he mixes all sorts of pop or rock with classical music and it is amazing. I also like apocalyptica..group of chelloists that do similar things and it just shows all the different musical avenues there are to explore. I hope you have a great time doing this and wish you success!

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