First love – Key moments through music

The notion of ‘key moments’ is a psychological concept describing life-changing experiences. It’s interesting to explore how this concept can shed light on musicians’ career choice, but also how it can be applied in therapeutic contexts, e.g. through the conscious reflection on both positive and negative ‘key moments’.

Talking about early experiences and psychological ‘fit’ one can highlight the importance of key moments as a mental resource for musicians. Positive recall can be used to overcome professional problems such as stage fright. Accounts of professional musicians show that key moments can be quite varied: some remember a specific instant of experiencing a particular instrument, for others it was a social encounter with a teacher; for some, their key moment happened early on, others came to music rather late, and not in all cases were key moments necessarily pleasant (though positive feelings clearly prevail).

There may be diverse psychological aspects of living by and for music. Emotional structures will be reflected, for good or bad, in the way a musician plays an instrument or gains access to a particular piece. At the same time, it is this emotional investment that often outweighs feelings of alienation common to many other occupations. Yet musicians also recount a different sort of key moment, of the small or everyday variety. Rather than life-changing, these moments are experienced as life-affirming and contributing to a sense of sustainable well-being: small moments of a passage well played or intense collaboration with a colleague while rehearsing a new piece.

Where does it come from, the ‘fit’ between musician and instrument? In highly musical families, the encounter is often taken for granted, personal decision and parental influence tending to blur. Two other moments that are often life-changing are either the encounter with a teacher or the experience of the musical collective – be this a youth orchestra or a visit to a concert.

The more key moments orchestras can offer esp. to young audiences, the better.


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