Anyone who has lived in Chicago for a full year knows there are a few indisputable rules:
Though the past couple winters have been mild, the supreme reign of Seasonal Affective Disorder is real in Chicago. So much cold and grey, much like Narnia (“always winter, never Christmas [or insert whatever festive joyous occasion you’d like]”), but not even as beautiful, often covered in black slush snow that has no power to stop the grind of Chicago productivity. We all become Michelin men and women in our full-length puffy coats just to spare us from hurtful air. Snow day? Forget it.
Anyway, of course there are harsher climates in the world. But that’s not the point of this story. There’s nothing more restorative than that first sunny day that smells like spring. Everyone goes a little nutty for it because nobody knew how depressed they felt until it melts away with the sunshine. Suddenly everything you hated about Chicago is touched by the weather Midas (who may be Tom Skilling in disguise), and you love it all over again.
Right now, there are so many happenings in the world that mirror the worst Chicago winters. So much grey it’s hard to see any beauty. So many situations bundled under layers and layers of emotions in an attempt to protect from extremely harsh realities swirling about, with no respite in sight.
Way to write an uplifting post, Kathryn.
Wait! It gets better, I promise.
So what I decided I’d share with you today are my Bow & Hammer rays of sunshine that brighten my day even on the worst of the days. Little (or big) things we do that have sustained me through our journey as a duo, and maybe could empower you, if you’re feeling down.
We take action.
Bow & Hammer gets sh*t done. Working together for 5 years and counting, there is no rock left unturned when it comes to making progress. Life as a violin/piano duo has presented so many challenges: less pooled resource, fewer available venue spaces (piano), fewer helping hands (4 total), fewer festival/competition opportunities (often duo playing is not considered chamber music), lack of support from the classical music industry (often not taken seriously as a young professional duo without any previous solo career fame, or being told professional duo careers aren’t possible), just to name a few. So we have made our own way, creating our own opportunities, concerts and series with the communities and individuals who have appreciated and supported us. And we could not be more grateful for the diverse network we have found in the process.
We believe each other.
Just as in any relationship, we have disagreements and grievances with each other. If an issue arises, we’ve actively developed the habit never to shut it down. Sometimes resolution is as simple as granting a request exactly how it’s asked. Sometimes it takes more discussion to find the effective resolution. If the issue feels outlandish, we assume a miscommunication has occurred and start by asking questions to verify. We trust that there would be no benefit to the organization or friendship of Bow & Hammer to falsely accusing the other of something.
Rather than hide uncomfortable situations, we support each other through them.
Music evokes many emotions, and it is quite common for our lives to mirror these emotions, or visa versa. That can be uncomfortable, and can need extra support. Sometimes it’s just as simple as an affirming smile, sometimes it’s more complicated than that. But the key is we face it. Together.
We have moved beyond the need for perfection.
Ok, let me clarify this. We are professional classical musicians. We spend hours upon hours (and have for the past 20+ years) elevating and refining our skill and technique. What I mean is, we use this as the base, not the pinnacle of our aspirations. Every performer knows there is practice involved to become polished and well-represented, and exorbitant amounts of elbow grease are necessary. But that’s not where we stop. We use these skills in tandem with investing our skills back into the world as relevant human beings.
We take action.
This sounds shockingly like the first point I made. But we recognize that the only way we can hope to support change in the world is by starting closest to us: ourselves. The way we interact together and with our growing network, the way we create, and the way we invest in each other. Trusting that there are others out there like us. Bonding with them to create business relationships built on integrity. Proving it’s possible.
There’s a lot of darkness around this winter. We’re there in it with you, and feel so many emotions. Despite all these inevitable storms, if we can provide each other with rays of light, maybe we can find more warmth in the world to change the proverbial seasons. We don’t all need to be politicians, artists, doctors, or philosophers. We all need to be humans together in our own ways, listening to how we can support each other.
So, cheers to a punctual springtime.
And, cheers to a ketchup-less hot dog.