Cicely & Madalyn Parnas: Practice Does Not Make Perfect 

Today’s professional music instrumentalists (pianists, violinists, cellists, etc.) may be surprised to read William Deresiewicz’ introductory comments to his book Excellent Sheep – a critique of elite American families’ academic objectives – about “the ability to engage in introspection” as “being the essential precondition for living the life of the mind, and the essential precondition for introspection [being] solitude.”  That’s not news: those professionals spend hours of their day in an introspective solitude that would probably give even an ascetic pause.  And their “practice” regime doesn’t need to be scheduled: it is pre-programmed to happen each and every day (including the seventh).  Anecdotes about Freud report that he didn’t believe creative artists were meant to develop healthy and happy lifestyles (then, again, the music he grew up listening to might have been categorized as Sturm und Drang).  Psychology has evolved since then, of course, as have musicians and their concepts of “best practices.”  What is the outlook of today’s elite professional musicians?  Is any semblance of “work-life balance” their lot?  Cellist Cicely Parnas and violinist Madalyn Parnas-Möller – two sisters at the top of their game, both as renown instrumental soloists, in their own right, and as the award-winning chamber ensemble, “Duo Parnas” – invite us for an intimate discussion about musicians’ faithful and multi-faceted relationships with their instruments.  

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