After one week at the Chicago Symphony, I was sitting at my desk, it was 5:45 on Friday evening, I was nowhere near finished, and I didn't know how to start half of the projects that I'd hoped to have finished by then. My head was in my hands, and it occurred to me that this was what it felt like to be part of the machine. All of your thoughts were focused on you, and not on the job of the institution, which is in the business of putting on concerts. You start thinking that it's a job, the concerts become less important, and the next thing you know, you don't care about music anymore. (I'm sure I'm skipping a few steps in here, but for argument's sake, let's pretend this is more or less accurate.)
One week before I started the new job, I was hanging out with some out-of-town friends, and someone asked why I did what I did, first as a journalist and then working on a record label. We all had musical backgrounds, and most of the group works in the field. "I love classical music, and I want people to love it nearly as much as I do," I answered. I've spent most of my life listening to it and learning about it, so I know that most people won't enjoy it as intensely as I do, just like I'll never develop a love of prog rock or free jazz. But if I can communicate some of the joy that I get from it, and someone takes a chance and downloads a movement of a Beethoven symphony or, the true jackpot, buys a ticket to a live event, then I've fulfilled a little bit of what seems to be the niche I occupy. It's not solving global warming or inner-city poverty, but it's not nothing, either.
When you work around something you enjoy, it's easy to become jaded, and that was something I initially feared going into this job. It's something I feared as a journalist, too, and I got to the point where a concert was work. I have a lot of respect for my former colleagues who've gone to concerts week in, week out, for upwards of 20 years, in some cases, and can still write about it with passion and insight. It's easy to lose sight that several hundred or thousand people have bought tickets to the event and are greatly anticipating it, while you sit there wishing you could be somewhere else. That boredom seeps into your work, if you're not careful.
It's the same thing with working in an administration. I'm surrounded by the Chicago Symphony. Everything I do there has direct bearing on the recordings we're trying to get produced. At the end of the day, the last thing you want to do after soaking your head in that barrel is stick around even longer and go to a concert, sometimes. And you end up jaded.
A couple days into the second week, I was talking with a colleague about getting jaded. It seems important that "jaded" is an adjective, and not a verb. You can't actively get jaded; it's something that describes your state of mind, and you kind of slip into it without realizing it. "Let's jade ourselves!" Sorry, it doesn't work like that. Other staffers seem to have found their own ways around getting bored with work, some through simply working incredibly hard. Just to keep up, I now walk through the halls much faster and take the stairs two at a time.
Because I can see that future on the horizon, I vowed to continue going to CSO concerts every week, but I also started going to rehearsals. The CSO doesn't have open rehearsals, and has a rule about barring press from them, so I've never had the chance before. (A couple years ago, I knew I wasn't going to be able to go to a concert I really wanted to hear, so I called the PR office to see if I could go to the dress rehearsal. I think she PR rep laughed for five minutes straight.) You'll have to go to Michael Hovnanian's blog to get the dirt on what happens in those rehearsals, and I really can't hear, anyway, since we have to sit far back on the main floor. I get a fresh reminder in the middle of the day about what's going on that justifies my getting up and going to work every day.
And the goal isn't to end up jaded.