What Do You Do When You Can’t Find Your Purpose? Thoughts on Musicians and Meaning, Life Purpose and Self Worth Inspired by Pianist Leon Fleisher.


This post is a follow-up from a recent article called The Dark Side of Success: Thoughts on Musicians and the Post Concert Blues.

In that article, I spoke about the patterns so many creative people face- the yo-yo swing from elated inspiration to being down in the dumps with no energy, motivation or direction. This continues until that next big thing comes along and then the cycle repeats.

During my own recent period of such a process, I found myself devouring everything I could learn about the renowned pianist Leon Fleisher.  It started because I had found a misplaced CD of his titled Two Hands which is one of the most beautiful and profound recordings I know of.

Debussy Claire de Lune:

If you don’t know about Leon Fleisher and his remarkable journey, I recommend taking the time to learn about him.

Here is a wonderful article  titled “My Life Fell Apart…”  by Lynne Walker for The Independent

“At 16, he was ‘the pianistic find of the century’. There followed a sparkling two decades before his right hand seized up mysteriously. After a 40-year battle to regain mastery of the keyboard, Leon Fleisher was headlining the 2010 Aldeburgh Festival. Lynne Walker hears his extraordinary story.”

There is also a short documentary about his journey also titled Two Hands and finally a feature about that documentary on NPR that you can find here.

Every time I listen to this CD I have to stop what I’m doing and just listen deeply. Each time these exquisite moments of profound music-making take my breath away and bring tears to my eyes.

It reminds me over and over how stunning music, how profound and meaningful it is…

When I think of the music that moves me deeply, I recognize that it is often because the musician and or the composer is a great humanitarian who has overcome some devastating tragedy and come through it to the other side. As a result of those experiences, he or she contributed something exceptional to the world because of it.

I can’t help but think about the role of music during the times we are currently facing.

So much of our training and thinking about a musical life is about achieving, being successful and “making it.”  In the two videos that follow, you’ll hear an important discussion about this with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Leon Fleisher and violinist Pam Frank.


In particular, listen to Pam Frank’s answer on how it is to be with music after an injury and the emotional process of “having the very thing you love no longer be available to you.”

During times like now, with all the fear and uncertainty, it’s time to know WHY you are a musician. How do you want to make an impact? How can you use music to communicate with others?

This is a time when we as artists can become one community working together for a bigger cause.

Music is needed more than ever and how will you contribute?

With all the unknown and change happening now, this is one area that you can have certainty. Certainty in how you will connect with music and share it with others.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. Thank you.

The Dark Side of Success…Thoughts on Musicians and the Post Concert Blues

Today’s the first day I’ve felt hopeful, inspired and motivated in about three weeks. I’d been going non stop since last January where every month since then had some “big thing” and I never had more than a day or two to slow down before revving up for the next project, talk, workshop, presentation, interview […]

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What if Being Nervous Could Work to Your Advantage?

  Nerves. Jitters. Stage Fright. Fear. Performance Anxiety. No matter what you call it, I’m here to tell you that the experience is valuable and even helpful.       SAY WHAT?! Stop talking CRAZY Dana! Are you saying that my butterflies, shaky hands, sweaty palms, dry mouth, or tight throat can actually help me? […]

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Why THANK YOU Matters.

  Why is it so hard for performers to (genuinely) accept compliments after a performance? We’ve all been there. Someone comes up to you backstage after a concert and tries to tell you how beautifully you played. “That was GREAT! BRAVO!” But rather than being able to hear them or receive their compliments, those internal […]

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The Hidden Gift of Injury

                Tendonitis, carpel tunnel, bursitis, back pain, shoulder pain, repetitive stress injury: these are some of the names of our biggest fears as performers. It forces us to address the scariest question of all: “What if I can’t play anymore?” In the fall of 1996 I was attempting […]

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Taking Play SERIOUSLY: 5 Things Learned from Experiencing Bobby McFerrin in Person and Why My Hope for the Future of Music is Renewed and Inspired.

  Listening to Bobby McFerrin sing may be hazardous to your preconceptions. Side effects may include unparalleled joy, a new perspective on creativity, rejection of the predictable, and a sudden, irreversible urge to lead a more spontaneous existence. (from his website: www.bobbymcferrin.com) I’ve been a fan of Bobby McFerrin my entire life.  I clearly remember […]

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I recently saw this video of a Dove commercial that showed a study in which women had to choose which door to walk through to get inside a building.  The doors were side by side and had a label marked above it. One had the word BEAUTIFUL marked above and the other had the word AVERAGE. Basically the […]

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Musicians and Money: Don’t Be a Starving Artist.

WAKE UP CALL FROM HELL.  “Dana, It’s for YOU!!!” Nearly two and a half years ago, I had one of those AH HA moments that was so shocking, so humbling, so embarrassing, so humiliating and just down right awful that I’ll never, EVER forget it. It’s about money. I was shaken out my fantasy (Dana’s […]

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Do You Have a Vision For Your Career in Music or Are You Lost Competing For the Same 1%? (Pt.1/6)

(This post is part one of a series that got inspired by my attendance at the recent Chamber Music America Conference in NYC.) Do You Know Your WHY? Do you remember why you got into music?  If you take a moment to search, you might remember what it is you love about music.  You might […]

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Why You Have to Start Thinking Outside the Box, NOW!

We Are in a New Era of Professional Music and it’s Time For You to Step Up and Get Involved. “You no longer have to wait for the gods of corporate America, or universities, or media or investors, to come down from the clouds and choose you for success. In every single industry, the middleman […]

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