I find myself yearning for simplicity nowadays. I don’t know if it’s a consequence of growing older, or of living in a world that seems full of a growing, unsettling, impersonal, messy and unkind din. Regardless of the reason, I look for simplicity in many things, and especially in my music. I find that this quest puts me in good company: Chopin said, “Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.” Isaac Newton believed, “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” Clearly, the search for simplification — for clarity and truth — has been a recognized and desired goal across many centuries.
At its heart, this search is about an approach to life, a true modus vivendi. I now understand what my teachers meant when they spoke of living “a musical life.” It’s about uncluttering our existence so that music is foremost. This quest requires personal discipline, honesty, patience, humility, collegiality — and a joy that is best when shared.
I feel that much of what we do in the Davidson Music Center — and what music educators do across our great state and country — is help students find and develop their own musical modus vivendi. Whether playing in band, singing in choir or writing a paper about a composer, students learn from and with their teachers the patient process for finding, and even creating, truth and beauty. There are always some bumps in this road, for both student and teacher. But simplicity is a wonderful destination. Ask Chopin.