As a junior in college, I’m closer to finishing my degree than starting it. As such, I’ve sat through more classes than I ever wished I had to — Music Theory, Religions of Asia, Food Anthropology, etc.. In many of these classes, I’ve questioned the amount of value that they have to me and my music career. It’s hard to say that reading a translation of a thousands-of-years-old religious text is valuable in the moment, and I think the entire notion of value in education is individualistic and develops over time. In my personal musical development, I’ve found that I am often singular-goal oriented. This means that often, there is a singular competition, performance, or audition that hangs over me. For many classical musicians, their musical development is very solitary. The pandemic has forced most people to be even more solitary, and opportunities to play with other people are a scarce commodity.
Over the past year, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had more time than ever to pursue hobbies outside of music. One of my hobbies was learning how to bake sourdough bread and grow a starter. I learned pretty quickly that bread-making and practicing an instrument are more similar than I would have thought. For example, for the type of bread I make, I concentrate my efforts on consistency — having the same ratio between flour, water, and yeast. A certain level of adaptability and finesse is required to gauge the time that each step in the fermentation process will take (much of the timing is dependent on the temperature of the room and dough, relative humidity in your kitchen, and the ratio of ingredients). In turn, managing these variables to produce a loaf of bread that is delicious and beautiful is no small feat.
My approach to practicing an instrument is quite similar. I aim for consistency by being conscious of the variables that affect my playing and strive for a product that is beautiful and artful in the end. Another connection I’ve drawn is that both bread-making and learning an instrument take time to develop skills on. It took me months of consistent practice to nail down my bread recipe; it’s taken me years on the euphonium to hone my sound.
Consequently, my life is infinitely richer with a greater appreciation of both bread-making and playing the euphonium. However, it’s sometimes hard to see value at a macro-level while doing either without the luxury of hindsight. With all of this in mind, I implore people to act purposefully and try to find value in the “little things” in life, whether they be the day-to-day routine of practicing an instrument or making bread.
- Kunal Tiwari