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.

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