Coping with burnout

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Ursa, Sep 1, 2009.

  1. Ursa

    Ursa Piano User

    Jan 17, 2009
    Northern Michigan
    Back in '95, I was working as a bassist in a lounge act, and as a euphonium player in a community band, doing paid jobs 3-5 days a week. I was in University full-time as a Music Education major, was on the Dean's list, and practically everything I'd done musically up to that point was a rousing success. I was constantly reminded of my talent and potential in music, and offers for work kept coming in. A successful career in music seemed to be a sure thing.

    But the unthinkable happened--music, the craft I've loved and couldn't get enough of since I was about age 5, suddenly became an unbearable chore. For whatever reason, I was completely out of musical energy and just couldn't do it anymore. I dropped out of college, sold off my bass setup, and the euphonium went into the closet. I was done with music. People would call with work offers and I'd flat tell 'em to never call me again. Being a musician sucked! I couldn't bring myself to play anything for the next four years.

    But now it's 2009. I've been noodling around with a bluegrass ensemble, and treated myself to a new upright bass. I'm playing cornet, trumpet, and tuba in community bands. I've got better gear than ever. The magic of it all has come back, and maybe I could make a go of music as a livelihood again.

    I just don't want to go through the total, awful burnout I experienced back in '95 ever again. I don't even want to take a chance on rebuilding a career in music until I'm reasonably convinced that I can keep burnout at bay.

    For those of you who've been doing it for years and have managed to keep your edge, how have you been able to do it? I'd really value your insights.

    Best Regards,
  2. dhbailey

    dhbailey Piano User

    Jul 28, 2009
    New Hampshire
    My advice would be to take a serious look at your involvement. You mention playing trumpet, cornet and tuba in community bands -- with an S, indicating plural. You mention 3 instruments -- would it be safe to assume 3 different community bands? Add the bluegrass group, and you're already involved 4 nights a week. Start doing weekend gigs and you're in danger of playing music 7 nights a week, plus the daily practicing that goes with doing a good job on the performances and learning your community band parts, etc.

    Sounds to me like you're on your way to another burnout -- unless you need to be earning your living from music, my advice is to limit your involvement to where you wish you had more instead of running the risk of wishing you had less music in your life. When you wish you had more, you can always pick up an instrument and play at home. When you wish you had less, it's tough to tell some people not to call you while asking others to call you, and it's tough to find just the right balance.

    Another thing to consider would be what other things were happening in your life when you burned out in college -- perhaps it wasn't the music that was crowding your life, but it was the most obvious thing to eliminate.

    Welcome back to music -- go slowly, adding a bit at a time and in a manner where you can ease off before it becomes a burden again.
  3. Ursa

    Ursa Piano User

    Jan 17, 2009
    Northern Michigan
    Thanks for the reply, dhbailey. For the sake of brevity I didn't go into too much detail in the above post. The stuff I'm doing now is all ensemble work where nobody is expected to show up for every rehearsal, and nobody does. I do the bluegrass in the autumn and winter, and brass playing during spring and summer, and there's little overlap. There's enough doublers and multiple players covering every part to more than cover for absent players. Heck, even the director position is triple-covered. So when I don't feel like playing, I don't have to. When I feel like playing trumpet, I play the trumpet; if I'm in the mood for some tuba, that's the axe I bring out. It's been an ideal way to ease back into the music scene, comfortably build my chops back up, and forge some new relationships.

    Now that the thrill is back, I do feel a certain sense of regret about letting talent and ability go to waste. Maybe it's time to get back into the game--but this time, with a realistic, workable plan to avoid another flameout.
  4. Pedal C

    Pedal C Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 24, 2005
    Since the stuff you're doing now is so low stress, it's easy to keep the burnout at bay. If you're thinking of doing this for a living again, and have to show up every time, whether you want to or not, you might try to ease yourself in. One instrument or genre at a time. I imagine it would be a lot more stressful for you right now if everything you played in was a professional group.
  5. Peter McNeill

    Peter McNeill Utimate User

    Jan 30, 2009
    Melbourne Australia
    Look into stress management as and music is meant to be fun.
    Recognise what turned you off, and look for the warning signs next time before it hits.
    Enjoy yourself.

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