Steven Banks

Saxophonist. Educator. Inclusion Advocate.

"To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable"

- Ludwig van Beethoven

I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here :)

Interlochen Center for the Arts is a pretty magical place. It has such a fantastic (in the most literal sense of the word) history, in which many of the world's greatest musicians have taken part. Since it's inception in 1928, talented youth and adults have come here to develop a lifelong passion for the arts. After close to 90 years of service, this spirit of inspiration and passion still remains strong. I think this is why I love it here!

When I first came to Interlochen in 2011 as a high school camper, I had such an unadulterated love for music and the saxophone, and I was so excited to learn from the distinguished faculty. I really enjoyed being around other students that were extremely motivated, no matter where they were in their development. Most importantly, I enjoyed being around other students and faculty that shared the love and passion for the arts and were proud to admit and act upon it. However, at that point in my life,  I didn't really appreciate how lucky I was, since I had come from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, which was a community of similar values. I thought that this was just an average way of being for musicians and other musicians alike.

I had never viewed studying music as "work" before college because it was truly a central source of joy for me and I never had to think twice about it. People told me that I would get burned out from my work ethic when it came to practicing and focusing on my art form, but I never believed them because I wasn't ever TRYING to be intensely focused...it was just part of who I was.

However, once I got to college, I started to realize that the infectious community of artists at a place like Interlochen or UNCSA is not something to be taken for granted. Some grew tired of practicing, didn't like to go to performances, and some didn't really care to learn about the music they were playing at all...it was just a matter of getting through the next lesson, jury, masterclass, or audition. Whether these feelings where true, or just I way of seeming "chill," this way of feeling really started to get to me. I couldn't understand why some were so proud to be preparing for their lesson the night before, or why I would go to recitals at which the only attendees were other members of their private studio (if they were lucky...) and their private teacher. Without the environment I was used to, I began to feel very lonely as I began to feel like I was in the minority in my perspective of studying my craft. 

I, of course, realize that everyone is entitled to do as they please, and that others actions should not really effect me to the point that I would change anything about myself. However, I think that we can also all understand the feelings of loneliness and wanting to be at home in a particular community. Unfortunately, I subconsciously succumbed to these feelings and my natural passion and excitement began to slowly diminish over my four years of college. I, honestly, didn't even recognize this in myself, until my junior and senior years. I, too, had begun to dread music history, find any reason to get out of going to a performance, and cram for my lessons a day or two before I had to perform. I was "just too busy" or "just really tired," but, in hindsight, I feel that the true reason is that I had lost some of that genuine passion to learn for enjoyment and too better myself for my own happiness. Instead, I was doing it to get an acceptable grade, and to gain the approval of my teachers and peers. By then, I felt like it was too late to just change back to the most natural form of my personality, because I felt like people already knew me and I didn't want to just be different all of a sudden, because I wasn't sure how people would react to the quick shift. Looking back, I wish I would have just gone for it, but again, we all understand that such decisions are much easier said than done.

This "funk" has actually lasted for years, and has developed to be a pretty complex issue, in my opinion. However, I can tangibly recognize that this bind is beginning to slowly unravel in just two weeks of being back at Interlochen! Passion and excitement are in the air, and the best of the best are here to share their knowledge and experiences. In these past two weeks, I have been able to sit in at least 6 hours of masterclasses by the PRISM quartet, see them perform, watch an extremely memorable performance by members of the Interlochen Cello Institute faculty, and watch young, talented saxophonists perform on their institute recital. These musicians have performed all over the world, and experiencing the fruits of their expertise is so exciting! I am  now recommitted to allowing the music into my heart for pure enjoyment as it was before, as opposed to listening only for critique and judgement. There is certainly a time for both ways of listening, but, for now, I will be a kid in a candy store and let myself get excited for all of those special moments that are created in fine music performances.

Meeting so many new people is an awesome way for me to redefine myself with fresh eyes as the genuine music and art lover that I am, and to let music surround me at all times. For me, it's not work or a chore to think about music and I know that the only way I'll be burned out is if I STOP following my heart and doing what is natural to me. As I enter my master's degree studies at Northwestern, I am committed to staying true to my artistic identity so that I can truly live up to the potential that I know is within me! In fact, I hope to share these experiences with others so that they, too, can know that it is always better to do follow your instincts, talents, and dreams than to acquiesce to what may perceived as "normal." 

All of this is just too say how thankful I am for this summer here at Interlochen, for giving me some time away from the professional world of academia, and giving me a community of artists that love what they do. It's truly refreshing for me and I certainly won't take it for granted this time! 

Please share this post if you know someone who could use the message!