The BBC National Orchestra of Wales has just enjoyed an ever so lovely week of annual leave. It was well placed, a quick pause to catch one's breath before the final countdown to our season finale, our tour to China (I've already started making lists regarding the contents of my case, and us girls are having serious conversations regarding our 'capsule wardrobes') and, of course, the 2012 BBC Proms.
Over our break, in addition to manically learning the dots for Alpine Symphony (Strauss - you bad, bad man. PS I love you), I took a trip to Manchester to have some lessons with my teacher from my RNCM days, Dr Louise Lansdown.
I was asked recently if I still went for lessons, and if I did, why did I. It's quite simple. I am of the opinion that in many ways, being a musician is a bit like being an eternal student. Thankfully, not in the eating beans on toast forever, and wearing jumpers so darned you can't remember what the original colour was way, but in that you can always learn something new, improve some aspect of your playing or knowledge, or take instruction and advice from someone.
In some ways, I find I get more out of lessons and playing to other people now than I used to. Now, although I don't have the luxury of hours and hours specifically set aside for just me in a practice room, I can apply the things I learn much more readily, as I can see how or if something will benefit me when I'm actually 'doing the job'.
In my lessons last week, it was refreshing to have a bit of a technique servicing. Sitting within the section, as I've said before, you often can't really hear yourself properly, so I wanted to do some work on tone production, and was also keen to get some fresh input on a particular work I've been learning in my own time. Two sets of ears are better than one, and bouncing ideas regarding interpretation off someone else can be so productive.
Students, the bad news is there is no quick fix for your playing. On no morning in the future will you waken up and magically be bestowed with the gift of perfect rhythm and intonation, with the innate ability to construct perfect nuances befitting each and every musical style, and the revelation of what composer x truly intended in bar y of piece z. The good news, however, is that you have signed up for a life of continual learning, that will be as exciting and entertaining as you make it.
It's like everything I guess - youthful enthusiasm will take you a very, very long way, but its life experiences (in the studio/in the pit/on stage), a bit of maturity and continued hard graft, that help to hone the skills we learn as students and beyond. I don't think we should ever be ashamed to learn new things, nor to admit that we have more things to learn.
The BBC National Orchestra of Wales' season of concerts at St David's Hall, Cardiff, concludes with Strauss's Alpine Symphony on Friday 15 June, 7.30pm. For tickets and more information, call 0800 052 1812.