One of my greatest challenges is to not compromise yourself as a musician artistically as it’s easy to fall in to a trap of always playing the music that people want to hear. I think that’s easy to do at the early part of your career but I reached a point where I said to myself, ‘why did you become a musician?’ and it was to not just play music which people are used to hearing but also to make people think a little. If it’s a new sound or interpretation, as the saxophone played in a classical way is then the artistic process is quite different to something that you are used to hearing and arouses an emotion or feeling which you weren’t sure was there.
When I was starting out as a musician I sometimes worried too much about what people might think of me. Now, I try and focus more on the ever-changing process of making music and let the listeners decide for themselves what they like.
I think it would be good if musicians realised how revealing it is to play music. You can see people so clearly. That has implications. I would say that generosity is the musical quality I most value: doing what’s right for the music or trying to make someone else sound amazing. If you can do that whilst also being very individual then that’s amazing. But how those two intersect is obviously very hard.
I always wanted to be closer to music. Conducting was a natural extension and progression from my experience as a horn player. The challenge of trying to imagine a complex score written by someone else took this magical internal activity even further than playing one line. Perhaps the ultimate version of this is to imagine one’s own sounds.
Who or what inspired you to take up the bandoneon, and pursue a career in music? I recall at the age of about five jumping up and down on my bed playing a kazoo, while simultaneously waving my arms around like a conductor. I think that is pretty much where I have been ever since…
Remember that art and life are an interweaving dance, and that one informs and inspires the other. Develop an instinct for which sacrifices are truly worth making and which risks are worth taking.