A few days before leaving for Bang on a Can I was sitting at a reputable imbibing establishment in Baltimore — hard to believe, I know. While there, I was asked in a well-meaning way, “Megan, don’t take offense to this… But, why did you spend all this money on school for a job that doesn’t pay you back right away? I mean, lawyers shell out a ton of money for law school; but, they’re making upwards of 100K as a first-year associate. You don’t know how long it will take to recoup your investment.” I didn’t take offense at all. I thought about it for a minute and said, “because I’m training for the marathon.”
Having run my first marathon in October, I have a sense of what it takes to train over a long period of time for something that you really want to do. Many people think it’s silly or nonsensical. Some are just in plain awe of the fact that you even completed the whole thing. From some of the looks we got in certain Baltimore neighborhoods, I’m sure they thought there was some sort of zombie apocalypse. Somehow, I get the same looks when I tell people about my singing career. I get a lot of surprised looks, some cute quips (“shouldn’t you be fatter?”), and genuine concern for my long-term fiscal viability. I tell them not to worry. This isn’t American Idol, folks. I’m not sprinting anywhere… I’m training for the marathon.
As luck would have it, the Bang on a Can Summer Festival at MASS MoCA culminates in a musical marathon. Six hours of music by some of the most amazing composers in the last century will be played by a collection of extremely talented musicians. Recently a friend of mine here at the festival asked a small group of Bang on a Can faculty/Bang on a Can All-Stars, “do you have any advice on how to learn this music any faster?” They replied that it is all about commitment, focused practicing, and lots of experience. As overwhelming as it may be right now, this musical trial-by-fire will strengthen us as musicians and scholars. From what I’ve heard, I’ll be part of the ensemble that opens the marathon – performing George Crumb’s “Ancient Voices of Children.” So literally, I’m training for the marathon.
However, the marathon isn’t just the last performance of the festival. It is the festival itself – and what you choose to do with the experience after it is over. I have learned so much about myself as a musician and specifically about my voice during the first half of this festival. I’ve reached the half-marathon point of the training plan. The body feels tired but good — an affirmation that our bodies are infinitely stronger than we believe them to be. As I promised last night, I brought my game face to our student composer rehearsal. There is still work left to be done (much more work left to be done.) But, I’m training for the marathon…