Last month, opera singer Joyce DiDonato gave a wonderful commencement speech to Juilliard’s graduating class. In it, she provides what she calls “four little observations” to those embarking on their musical careers. They may seem, at first blush, to be daunting, even contradictory. But hear her out:
1. You Will Never Make It
“It” doesn’t exist for an Artist. [...] there will always be that one note that could have soared more freely, [...] that one adagio which could have been just a touch more magical. There will always be more freedom to acquire and more truth to uncover. As an artist, you will never arrive at a fixed destination. THIS is the glory and the reward of striving to master your craft and embarking on the path of curiosity and imagination.
2. The Work Will Never End
When things become overwhelming–which they will, repeatedly, whether it’s via unexpected, rapid success or as heart-wrenching, devastating failure–the way back to your center is simply to return to the work. Oftentimes it will be the only thing that makes sense. And it is there where you will find solace and truth.
3. It’s Not About You
You have signed up for a life of service by going into the Arts. And the life-altering results of that service in other people’s lives will NEVER disappear as fame unquestionably will. You are here to serve the words, the director, the melody, the author, the chord progression, the choreographer–but above all and most importantly, with every breath, step, and stroke of the keyboard, you are here to serve humanity.
4. The World Needs You
It is yearning, starving, dying for you and your healing offer of service through your Art. We need you to make us feel an integral part of a shared existence through the communal, universal, forgiving language of music, of dance, of poetry and Art–so that we never lose sight of the fact that we are all in this together and that we are all deserving of a life that overflows with immense possibility, improbable beauty and relentless truth.
Inspiring stuff! I encourage you to read the entire speech for yourself, or watch it here: