Within you and without you

May 7, 2006

I once asked my father why he didn’t send Christmas cards to his congregation. “If you forget someone, they get hurt and say ‘well you sent a card to So-and-so, but you didn’t send one to me,’ so my Christmas cards are my sermons, they are for everyone.” That made sense. He wasn’t just being cheap or lazy. He just opted out of that tradition.

I’ve had the same policy for my music theory students. If I have a class of 45 students, I just don’t have the time to go to 45 recitals every year, in addition to last year’s class, and the one before, and the one before. And if I go to one student’s recital, and not the other, the latter feels I’m playing favorites with the former. So I go to the ensemble performances where I can hear them all at one time.

I’m on sabbatical from teaching at UCLA this terms, which means I should STAY AWAY from things-UCLA and devote my time to research, which in my case is writing music. A whole flock of my young composition students are giving recitals now, and I so much want to attend them all, but the problem just mentioned rears its ugly head once more. I guess it’s a teacher’s post-partum depression that kicks in after graduation, on sabbatical, or after retirement. I have this nagging feeling that my students NEED me, and that the concerts can’t go on without me. But you know? They can, and they do.

I remember being somewhat depressed about George Harrison’s song “Within You and Without You.” The notion that the world will be just fine without you was and still is an unsettling thought. But I’m practicing getting better at it.

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