In the quest for balance, one size does not fit all.“If I really want to do music, I have to do it now. So I quit my job and I went for it.”
Sounds like the age-old romantic tale of a starry-eyed idealist choosing heart over head to pursue a long-held dream to be a musician.
You probably know how the story ends. After a potent dose of the real world, the young romantic resorts to waiting tables to make ends meet while her harp gathers dust in the corner of her apartment. Except this story has a different ending.
Meet the story’s real-life heroine, Katryna Tan. Katryna was a successful young architect living in Singapore. She had played the harp since she was a child, and her love for music never waned, even after launching a career in an unrelated field. She flirted with freelancing to get her harp fix, but that wasn’t enough. She needed to go all in. And she did.
How does Katryna’s story end? Well, you’ll have to find out for yourself in our interview with her in this issue (see “The Sky Is the Limit,” pg. 16). But let’s just say that how ever idealistic or romantic her visions of a harp career were, they were matched by her resolute determination, work ethic, and top-notch musicianship.
Now I’m not going to sit here and say that all harp stories work out this way. We all know plenty of stories of unmet expectations and dreams never realized. What’s inspiring about Katryna’s story is that it is real. The music world didn’t bow down at her feet and pave an easy path to a successful harp career for her. She worked and worked and worked for it. She planted her flag in a place where there were virtually no jobs for harpists, saw a vision for what she could do, and put her nose to the grindstone. Fifteen years later Katryna has a thriving career as a performer and teacher and has built vibrant community of harpists in a part of the world that was virtually void of harpists a generation ago.
I think music is like a uniquely shaped piece in the jigsaw puzzle of a person’s life. Each person has to figure out where it fits in his or her life. Most of us try to fit the piece into the wrong spot of the puzzle a few times before we find the right fit. For some people, like Katryna, music is that all-important corner piece, the driving force for everything they do in their career. For others, music is a connection to others, a link to their heritage, a fun hobby, or simply a paycheck.
For Inge Wiekenkamp, music is an escape—a way for her to relax and release all the stress from her job as a scientist. It wasn’t always this way, Inge writes in this issue’s Sounding Board article (see “Water Music” on pg. 10). As a talented young harpist growing up in The Netherlands, she was put on the fast track to a traditional classical music career as a soloist or an orchestral musician. After years of trying to force her piece into the wrong spot, Inge walked away from the harp. She chose a different career path. It was only after stepping away from the puzzle that she was able to see clearly where music fit in her life. Finding the right fit has brought happiness and balance to her life where there was only stress and frustration before.
Where does the harp piece fit in your puzzle? The answer might surprise you. But when you find the right spot, you’ll know. •