I didn’t notice that, as my space had become more neglected over the years, including my teaching space, my life was becoming less fun. The peeling paint on the walls of the building I rented to teach music was becoming mirrored by the peeling away of self-respect and confidence I felt in my teaching. Fast forward to many years deep in a relationship with a wise and amazing visual artist/brilliant environment-creator and I have learned that a clean space with lots of light, beautiful art on the walls, and a vase with fresh flowers in it is half of creating a beautiful life!
If I spend some time beautifying my studio, shaking out curtains, dusting speakers and instruments, and rearranging music stands and chairs so my students and I can navigate easily around them, I am a better teacher. I am also way more likely to get out there and spend some time writing, playing music, and teaching with pride and a smile on my face.
When I was learning the Bach Chaconne, a major unaccompanied classical violin piece, and a longtime bucket list item for me, I applied the beautiful space, beautiful life concept. I would go out to the studio on a Saturday morning with a well-made latte in a big, beautiful cup. I would stand in a spacious and comfortable studio and spend the first 10 minutes or so of my practice time just staring at the pages. The book I had of Bach unaccompanied sonatas and partitas included pictures of the music, handwritten! Presumably, this was in Bach’s own handwriting. In between delicious sips of foamy latte, my eyes took in the sweeps and strokes of the ink across the page. I would take a few deep breaths and I was ready to dig into this incredible work of art.
It took me about a year to learn and memorize the whole thing. It was life-changing for me. I wasn’t huddled in a dusty practice room, toiling till late at night under fluorescent lights with the pressure of getting kicked out of my university music program in the back of my mind. This was a joy for all my senses! In that way, it wasn’t the performances that became a success for me. It was the blissful freedom of connecting with my instrument and my soul through the passionate notes of a master. All this while nestled into a sanctuary, a beautiful space.