I Quit the Bassoon

For almost 4 months.  Give or take a week.

I’m no longer a student….

My defense was over in February.  I was so tired, and so very burnt out.  Here I was, for all intents and purposes, Doctor Jolene Masone, DMA.  Master of the bassoonery arts, and all that entails!  Really, it just felt awful.

My dissertation wasn’t at all groundbreaking.  It wasn’t nearly as good as I had wanted it to be.  After I handed it in, I realized all the things I could have added to it.  I hadn’t accomplished any of the things I had wanted to while getting the degree.  It never felt like I had enough time to do anything.

In April, my playing obligations ended, so I put my bassoon in the case, and shoved it under the bed.  I assumed I would take a slight break – a week maybe?  It is so good for us to be able to walk away sometimes.  I always realized how much I missed it.  The weight in my hands, the attachment to the sound, and the warmth of accomplishment were things I always associated with playing the bassoon.

Three weeks went by, and I remembered it was under the bed.  I pulled the case out and starred at it. I realized I hadn’t made a reed in 2 months. I also realized I didn’t want to pull it out of the case.  I opened the case, shrugged my shoulders, closed the case, and shoved it under the bed.

“I’ll miss it soon”  I thought to myself.

Getting a doctorate is hard…

My mom met a medical student the other day that already had a degree in clinical psychology.  My first thought was not, “Wow, how great for that lady. Get it girl!”  or “Way to change careers at 40! You are awesome!” My first thought was “For all that is holy, why would she do that to herself twice?”

I turned 30 when I started to write my dissertation.  It had already been the worst year of my life the weeks leading up to my birthday.  I was dirt poor (I pretty much owed everyone money), had just moved into a new place (that I had moved all of my stuff, plus my S.O’s by myself, and paid for it), and my significant other of 5 years had just broken up with me. I was in a minor car accident, and I found out I ran out of financial aid.

And then I had to write a dissertation.

Nothing came together easily.  Every email written was difficult, every page seemed grueling, and I was dealing with serious imposter syndrome/depression/denial of the imposter syndrome and depression.  I gained and lost (and regained) 15 pounds during the whole ordeal, and forgot to practice many nights, while I was writing seven hours a day (plus working 40 hours a week).   My dissertation recital was pretty much a disaster.  I was so disappointed in the whole thing.  My advisors were super gracious, and I am usually the first person to listen to all my recordings, but I still haven’t listened to it.  I’m not going to.

I thought this summer was a wash…

I literally let the bassoon sit behind my door this summer.  I didn’t listen to bassoon music, or watch bassoon videos.  I didn’t read about the bassoon, or music.  I didn’t miss the bassoon.

In August, a dear friend asked me to play in the pit for West Side Story.  The music was good, the conductor was amazing, and the people playing with me were all extremely good musicians.  I was so happy to be there.  It felt good to play again. My endurance was crap, but at least I could enjoy the moment with my friends, and play some good music.  The actors were so appreciative, and it was so much fun.

I just did a concert with a group  I play with all the time.  I forgot how good it was to see everyone, and enjoy watching everyone else play music.  I sucked.  I’m still not in shape, but I’ve started practicing again, and I might even make a reed this week 😉

This summer made me realize that its not the bassoon that makes me an artist. Ironically enough, getting a doctorate in the bassoon made me forget about what music does for people.  It made me forget that I care about playing music, because it’s about the people behind it.  It’s about the composer that wrote it, or the people making the music with me.  I forget that music is ultimately about people.

I was once told “If you burn out, were you really ever on fire?”  Maybe I just needed to burn the place down and start over.



2 thoughts on “I Quit the Bassoon

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Jolene. I can empathize with your position. It’s been a little over 3 years past my final orals. I’ve written a handful of pieces in that time, only two of which I’ll keep. I didn’t take in any new music after my defense until about a month ago — I seriously burned out, but I’ve recently started really listening to music again.

    The great thing about the arts is that they return almost immediately to you when you become ready for them. Your community is the same way, I think.

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