Ep. 155 Transcript

Disclaimer: This is transcribed using AI. Expect (funny) errors.

Mindy Peterson: [00:00:00] I’m Mindy Peterson, and this is Enhance Life with Music, a holistic look at the power of music in our everyday lives. My guest today is joining me from my home state of Michigan. Dr. Julie Jaffe Nagel is a musician, psychologist, psychoanalyst and author. Dr. Jaffe Nagel is a graduate of the Juilliard School, the University of Michigan, and the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute and has helped numerous people understand and overcome performance, anxiety and blocks to creativity, career choice and self-esteem. She is equally at home performing on stage, speaking, consulting and writing. Her latest book, Career Choices and Music Beyond the Pandemic, Musical and Psychological Perspectives, was published March 1st. Congratulations on your new book publication, and welcome to Enhance Life with Music, Julie.

Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel: [00:00:57] Thank you so much, Mindy. I am delighted to be here today to have a chance to talk about what I’ve been writing about for the past year and living for my whole life, really about career choice and music.

Mindy Peterson: [00:01:08] Well, you know, in your book that career choice is one of the most important decisions we make in our lifetime. And your new book explores how our personal identity is linked to our choice of a career in music. And I’ll quote here from your book The book is a psychological and musical journey that will raise more questions than it answers. I do not offer a model for choosing a career, nor is this book intended as a platform to provide one size fits all advice. I hope it will motivate you to think about your professional and personal goals and pose some questions of your own. And that’s the end of the quote there. I did find this to be a very thought provoking book. I loved it, and as I was reading it, I kept finding myself like the wheels of my mind would get turning on something that I read about and I’d kind of get off on this mental tangent with just being inspired to think about something. And then I’d kind of bring myself back like, Oh, where was I? Like, bring myself back to the page. Where was I? What was I reading? That kind of got my mind, my the wheels turning on this topic.

Mindy Peterson: [00:02:15] So I love how it’s not a one size fits all. This is what you need to do. This is the model. But at the same time, the title of the book and just the realities of COVID beg the question to be asked about how have music, careers and options changed. In the book, you said that you felt a need to write about career choice, and you point out that music career choice does include two realities one, that musicians earn far less than other highly trained professionals, and they may actually earn less than unskilled workers. And the second reality is, and I’m quoting here from your book, that the pandemic cast a light on the necessity of rethinking, rebuilding and possibly redesigning our concept of careers in the arts, rather than succumbing to the understandable despair that accompanied COVID 19 unwelcome and sudden descent into our lives and careers, we should recognize how this trauma has energized and actually expanded choices for rewarding and creative work in a music career of the future. And that’s the end of that quote. Yeah. So tell us, what are some of the ways that you have seen COVID expand choices for rewarding and creative work and a music career?

Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel: [00:03:32] Well, you just said a lot and I realize you’re reading my own words and some of the. Right. I’m going to start off by saying there are a lot of questions and you pose the question of how has it changed and how could it not? Change is another way to look at that question. And my answer to that is not a definitive this, this and this have changed because they have. And I want to talk about that. But we are changing as we speak. But having a career in music, choosing a career in music, as you said, and I think it’s the first line in my book. It’s one of the most important decisions of a lifetime. And because music as a career for a musician who goes seriously and professionally into that career has to do with more than just work, more than just a 9 to 5 job. But it really is who you are as a person, as a musician who has chosen music as your life’s work. And so you take your whole person, your whole life history into this thing we call work, but it’s based on how much you actually love what you do. I want to talk a little bit about psychological development, and I may go off on a slight tangent here, but stay with me because I will pull it together. Music really begins. In the nursery with the songs and the coos and the gurgles and the laughing that exists between parent and child, which, if you think about it and you look across the life span, when a child grows up and chooses as a young adult or adolescent teenager to major in music, you’ve had a long experience with having an audience, somebody who loves you, somebody who takes care of you, somebody who responds to you, basically, somebody who applauds you, which is an audience, which is also the parent as the first audience.

Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel: [00:05:33] So by the time you decide to go in music, as your career, as your life’s profession, you’ve had a long incubation and inundation in a career that you love, that music speaks to you as well as as a musician, then speaks to the audience through music rather than through words. So one’s personal identity can’t be divorced, but shall we say from career choice, particularly in music, it is part and parcel of who we are. So that the questions that you started to pose, that I that I pose right off in the book is how does this happen? Why do we choose this? And now what has the pandemic imposed upon us? Unasked? And I say unmasked and unwanted. And it was a wake up call in many ways to the issues that musicians face, people who choose music as a career, performers and teachers on all levels. It’s cast a big shadow and a lot of questions on how are we going to move forward.

Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel: [00:06:48] Life changed and newspaper headlines had these ominous quotes about concert halls or closing quote, A couple from my book, The Virus related Venue closes, will affect the music business for years to come. A great cultural depression looms for legions of unemployed performers. The bottom dropped out. Yeah, and you mentioned, too, and I’ll talk a little bit about economics, because this is one way we’ve changed. And one thing I think that musicians need to we’ll talk about this when we talk about music education, the financial situation of musicians, which has never been the most lucrative, shall we say, to put it mildly. If you look at some of the data census data, the national endowments of the arts data musicians income lags behind. Not only I’m not just talking about the star musicians who can earn quite a bit of money, but the rest of us, and there are a lot of the rest of us, in fact, they’re more highly trained musicians than there are jobs available. So you see a discrepancy even with people who are not in music occupations, who are in far less demanding educationally expense wise, less than wise, commitment wise, socially wise, in terms of all of the isolated practice that you have to do to become a musician. I mean, it’s a huge commitment to a lifestyle and to a career, right?

Mindy Peterson: [00:08:22] You point out in the book how the pandemic really shone. That spotlight on the fragility is the word that you use, the fragility of the music profession. And it became very clear how dependent musicians are on social values and political tastes and budgets. And and you also posed the question, why do people pursue a career in a work that’s so demanding as music? You mentioned the long, isolated hours of practice, the low economic compensation, the intense competition, way more qualified professionals available for the limited spots that are available, the rejection. So you do talk quite a bit about some of those psychological factors that draw people to a career in music, which was really interesting. And then also that psychic income component. Can you kind of talk about that psychic income component? Yes. How that affects.

Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel: [00:09:21] Things. That is a very important. You’re hitting some really important issues here to bring up. In 2019, just before the pandemic hit. Just to reiterate one other thing, the unemployment rate for musicians was 3.3% and 2020, the unemployment rate of that same population surveyed was 20%. Overnight, unemployment mushroomed, and that.

Mindy Peterson: [00:09:47] Probably didn’t take into account all of those musicians who were employed but no longer in music. Right? So maybe they took jobs, you know, delivering pizza or something like that just to have.

Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel: [00:09:59] Thing they always have. Musicians typically will have second and third jobs to pay the bills because if they just depend on and I’m not talking about teachers who are regular of musicians, I was thinking teachers because I was listening to Bob Morrison on your wonderful interview with him stressing about the teaching profession. And even there, you know, I don’t want to get into that because he did it so well. I recommend listening to that one. But people who don’t have an employed job but who are more self employed or want to perform or are in a school that is cutting a program or a university that is not hiring people as they once did before the pandemic, They have other jobs to sustain them or spouse or some other way of income. So you ask, what is this thing called psychic income, which is interestingly a phrase coined by two economists. They were at Princeton University and wrote on the psychic income of the musician, which is the pleasure, the love, the enjoyment, the internal satisfaction. And there is a psychologist I resonate very much. But as a musician, I also resonate because I can’t imagine anything and I love what I do, but I can’t divorce myself from being a musician even when I’m a psychologist and think about the pleasure you get from making music, having people applaud you, basically getting love from the audience expressed by the audience as the parent substitute.

Mindy Peterson: [00:11:36] It was really interesting how much you talk in the book about that parents substitute and just going into that psychological aspect of that. But yeah, that psychic income, it’s sort of like, Hey, I love what I do, so it’s okay that I’m not getting paid appropriately.

Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel: [00:11:49] Well, but it’s not okay. And this is right.

Mindy Peterson: [00:11:53] When you go into that too, and you sort of point out that a lot of musicians sort of shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to this because they don’t they’re not as assertive as they should be about their financial needs. They don’t ask for the remuneration that they should. They don’t seem to place the psychological value of them on their work that they should. So talk to us a little bit about that.

Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel: [00:12:20] Yeah, and this ties into what I was talking about as we began, because as a classically trained musician and trained as a performer, there are so many other ways to come at looking at looking at this problem. But I wanted to use my psychological background now and all the years of experience in working with musicians in my clinical work. It’s about how you feel about yourself. That’s why work is more than work. Work is an extension of how you feel about yourself even more than what you do. And this gets mixed up in the financial question How do you ask to be paid when you love what you do? And for many musicians, the love of the audience can even supersede the asking for fees that are appropriate. Not astronomical, but appropriate because the applause seems to satisfy that. And there is some sense, you know, of the starving artist is a romantic kind of figure who is so talented. They don’t need the earthly things that paying bills demands. But it also when I get into this, when I talk about education and changing music education, to approach this topic about why is it so hard to talk about money and asking for an appropriate fee, because I don’t think the starving artist is either romantic or sustaining. There is a reality.

Mindy Peterson: [00:13:50] I mean, you talk about how you have to choose between your love and your life in terms of your money, like money or your love of music. You know, it’s important to express, since both real and psychic income as sources of pleasure and self-worth. So yeah, exactly. A job of pointing that out.

Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel: [00:14:10] And one of the things I emphasize is let’s try and take this stigma, embarrassment, guilt over feeling that you can ask for a salary, you can try and negotiate. And jumping ahead of myself a little bit about beyond the pandemic to get on boards of directors and be a part of the community where you live and to actually talk with audiences, not just go on a stage play, everybody applauds and then you leave. But to actually have residencies and let people know some of the things we’re talking about today that people go to concerts and you sit in the audience and you’re spellbound. You don’t think as an audience member what this person has done since age four. In playing an instrument and developing, developing and choosing a career which may run into parental questioning. You’re going to do what the parents will question how you’re going to earn an income. It’s one of the big issues embedded in stage fright. To be able to go on the stage and feel that you belong there and that you can show who you are there through making music or through teaching or through whatever, I’m emphasizing performance because again, I don’t want to sound it’s only about performance, but the career in general, it takes a lot of conflict on the stage and you are there alone and people are watching you and you don’t want to let them down because you’ll feel embarrassed and guilty and ashamed. You’re doing it in public. Unlike many other occupations, you go in an office and yeah, you have to get your work done well, but you don’t have to do everything in front of people watching you or I’m really not good enough, or I’m comparing with so-and-so. These are things that I think need to be folded into education for people.

Mindy Peterson: [00:16:05] Well, let’s talk about education, because you have some really great insights and ideas of how music education can change. Can you talk about in the book how in the shadow of COVID 19, reality and artistry must become better acquainted? You have you have really how we educate musicians just as we rethink what kind of work music can be. So how do you think music education, how we educate musicians, should change in light of the pandemic?

Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel: [00:16:35] Some things that I’m recommending. First of all, the word interdisciplinary appears in so much of my recommendations that we are not soloists in the world of music. We may be a soloist on stage, but we are part of a community and part of a profession that can bring what I call herd immunity, but I spell it h e a r d instead of the herd that we can be an aural aural antidote to some of the pain people feel not only from the pandemic, but from some of the blows of life that we are all dealing with as human beings, trying to live a good, healthy life. Very often during the pandemic, I would hear my patients, my friends, my colleagues talk about how listening to music was so therapeutic for them. We have a public service. We are in public health. We are first responders. And I’m saying we I’m a musician and I feel that deeply with music. And to get out there, as I said earlier, and be a part of the community, the world, wherever you have connections and society, we need you. We need you in public health. We need you in talking about whatever social issue is of interest and using music to illustrate that in some creative way. Again, use that in the educational process to help train people to do more than play the right notes and give recitals.

Mindy Peterson: [00:18:01] Yeah, I think that was my favorite recommendation that you made. I mean, you have several really great recommendations for educators of musicians and encourage faculty members to to check out your book and really look at that section. But when you talk about those interdisciplinary courses that you recommend as being equally and important for these budding musicians as their private lessons and music theory and music history. But you talk about specific ideas, studies in the psychology of stage fright, which you’ve done a lot of work in professional networking, audition strategies, career management, that includes interviewing, resume writing, finance, and then also nutrition and exercise. And it’s like, wow, that, you know, that focus on the holistic person. The holistic musician. Yes. Is just so amazing and really does prepare these budding musicians for a very well-rounded and healthy life as a musician or as a musical. Fill in the Blank, a musical psychologist, which you’ve blended those two careers in your life. I was just interacting with a colleague earlier today about they sold a Steinway to a doctor who wanted to buy this concert, Grand Steinway, for the other doctors in his medical center to play, just as a therapeutic process because it’s so stressful for them to be delivering bad news to family members or stressful on them to lose patients who have become friends to them. And so just dealing with the stress, you know, so whatever your career ends up being, whether it’s teaching music and performing music or it’s some kind of a blending of careers, being able to approach that as a well-rounded person is so important, right?

Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel: [00:19:55] To think outside what I call to think outside the music box. And to get off stage. And for me as a psychologist and a psychoanalyst, I love going into communities and talking to different organizations or people and talking about these things and talking about them from the psychological perspective as well as the musical perspective. But you point out the beauty of music anywhere and everywhere. And one thing I found that a number of my musician colleagues have been doing is playing music anywhere and everywhere. If you don’t need a piano, you can perform in a garage. I know people who do that, or they do downtown summer festivals again without a piano. But if there’s a piano or a nursing home or going into a school where you have a piano and then talking with people, not just showing what you can do, but what are they, what do they resonate to? That’s another topic I’ve thought about a lot and written in another book, The Melodies of the Mind. What makes music so powerful? I don’t think there’s one music that’s a universal language, but if you put an S on music and different cultures in different societies, there is music that we all share in how the mind can process the nonverbal sound rather than just words. And people are fascinated with the musician, too. Which brings me to another point that you raised and I think about a lot. So I resonated to it, is how to communicate. This could be taught to how to communicate with non-musicians and not assume that they know what you’re talking about. When you talk about a grace note or a fermata or a tempo marking, what’s that? How can you talk in people? Talk not just how you talk with your colleagues and with your teachers.

Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel: [00:21:46] That’s something, too, that I think is important. If we’re going to get out there off the stage and not just be this, you know, romantic, talented genius that people like to sit in the audience and do receive the pleasure from. But let’s help people understand what goes into people are curious. How did you become a musician? What kind of training did you have? When did you start? Familiar question is how long do you practice? How do you do that? By memory. But to think about how do you and why do you and do you have and personally do you have a life other than music that makes you a better musician? What else do you do? Yeah, so there’s so many things. And to kind of tie this piece together about the education, there’s so much more to think about, but we’re trying to also involve other people coming in to do some teaching guests from outside our profession. The music teacher doesn’t have to feel like an expert in every area that we’re talking about or that I write about, and to really invite specialists in from a variety, from business for sure, from management, from from nutrition psychology. For goodness sakes, let’s get the stigma out of mental health and refer to people who can help those in trouble who go into music and have impediments that don’t allow them to pursue. It’s not that you need to change careers, but to expand this incredible gift of a career that you’ve chosen to make yourself accessible on so many levels. The pandemic curtailed opportunities and careers were threatened, but musicians popped back up. They learn zoom really quickly. They learn technology really quickly. Right? It didn’t necessarily earn them money, but it didn’t diminish their talent or their creativity.

Mindy Peterson: [00:23:44] Well, you point out in the book how that talent and creativity is something that we develop as musicians and that can be applied to out of the box thinking about opportunities for future jobs that are in music, but different than the teaching and performing that we maybe tended to really focus on before the pandemic. And I know we could talk forever about the content of this book and even each of the questions that I asked you. But just for time’s sake, I’ll say I really enjoyed the book. There’s so many thought provoking topics that you bring up and questions to get people thinking about, Well, why did I go into this career? What would be a great launching point to move forward into the new future that we’re facing, the new landscape that we’re facing in music? You talk a lot about the psychological motivations that musicians tend to have. In fact, I love we won’t go into the weeds on this, but I love the four types of personalities who seek a music career that you go into. Those four different personalities was really fascinating.

Mindy Peterson: [00:24:52] So I just really encourage people to read the book and just get those wheels turning about their particular. You and how these different truths may apply to them and what may be the best steps for them moving forward. And I just want to point out to you that you do really end on a positive note and say that writing the book has really refreshed your optimism and enthusiasm about pursuing a career in music. We may be giving the opposite impression in our conversation so far. I hope not. I hope. Yeah. But you really do have a positive optimism and enthusiasm about musical careers. So I really encourage people to get the book and read it and know that it will get those creative wheels turning for each person who reads the book. Well, Julie ask Yeah, ask all my guests to close out our conversation with a musical, ending a coda by sharing a song or story about a moment that music enhanced your life. Is there a song or a story that you can share with us today as we close our conversation?

Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel: [00:25:58] Brian Yeah, as I think about that, I have four quick things that were said to me that have made a huge difference. One of them was by my high school choir teacher for whom I accompanied the choir all the way through high school, and when I was going to Juilliard, he was wishing me well and said, Keep your options open, which is what we’re talking about here today. At the time, I thought he was thinking she’s not going to be able to make it in music, so she’s got to keep her options open. Little did I know that was one of the most important things anybody could say to me, because somehow I have morphed into being a psychologist but never left the music behind. And I love that advice. Keep your options open. Another one was said to me by my doctoral advisor at the University of Michigan as I was going on and on and on about the power of music. And and I was just talking because I thought anybody should see this just makes such common sense. And he stopped me and he said, why should anyone care about this? Why should anyone care about music? I was flabbergasted. Why shouldn’t everyone care about music? But you have to talk in the language that that non-musicians will understand. And I think about that every word I write ever since that is in the back of my mind or the front of my mind, how am I phrasing this so that I can because I like to speak to the non choir people as well as the choir people.

Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel: [00:27:24] It’s easy to talk about grace notes with musicians, but not outside. Two more real quick. Another one of my mentors when I was in psychoanalytic training and I was very interested in Mozart, I wanted to write something on Mozart. I saw some about I am a musician and he wrote the most beautiful music. But if you read his letters, the language, the the potty talk he uses, which was common in his era, is so different than the beauty of the music. And I said to the my mentor, I want to write about Mozart. I want to think about it more. But I’m sure everything about Mozart has already been written. And he looked at me and all he said was, Don’t be so sure. And that’s all I needed was to go and write about Mozart. And I’ve written a dialogue between Mozart and Freud that’s been performed on the power of music and mental life. In the last one was by actually a professor when I was in back in graduate school in psychology at the University of Michigan. After Juilliard, many years after Juilliard, I taught and I performed for many years before feeling that I can do this in music.

Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel: [00:28:28] But I’m choosing and that’s important. I’m choosing to change my career. And I brought you never lose what you’ve done. I bring music in with me every single day. But anyway, we had to write a paper. It was a course in personality theory, and I wrote a paper. I said, There’s no such thing as personality. And I went on to explain the complexities of personality. So we can’t pigeonhole any one person as having personality. And the only comment he wrote on that paper was, You have more to say. Which is a message I would like to leave with the people who are listening to this podcast because we’ve said a lot, but there’s always more to say. And as a musician you have a lot more to say post-pandemic and that getting into some of the weeds that don’t feel so good. You clear them out by thinking about them. You don’t get stuck in the weeds and you have more to say, You have more to play, you have more to share with music. And I just wish everybody who is listening today who is interested in this topic to continue to find the pleasure of making and sharing and teaching music going forward.

Transcribed by Sonix.ai