The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

“The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” by Alan Sillitoe

Navon Hall was packed last night. The Jerusalem Conservatory Chamber Orchestra was hosting a group of young people who came with their parents to attend an open rehearsal. This activity is a collaboration of JAMD and an organization called College for All. Excellence seems to be a popular issue and I felt that I needed to relate to it and introduce some of my own views. I have done many similar events before: the audience sits with the orchestra and becomes part of the event but this time was special because it was a young orchestra. My discussion was held as much with the orchestra as with the guests. As always, I devoted a part of the rehearsal to a piece with a soloist. This time it was Beethoven’s Romance No.2, played by our concertmaster. Performing a work that involves a soloist allows me to talk about excellence, about being first among equals, about leadership and about the importance of the other parts, the parts that are not playing the melody and may not sound as interesting, but give the melody its meaning: they are the parts who make the melody shine. When I stopped for the first time, I asked our guests how they thought our soloist felt. I got all the answers I always get: proud, frightened, anxious, worthy, successful, a lot of responsibility and a few more. Just as I was about to continue rehearsing, a girl in the back raised her hand and said with a quiet and shy voice: “lonely”. There was a moment of silence, I was struck dumb. There was something shocking for me in the way she said it, especially considering she couldn’t be older than 12 years old. So a girl from the periphery who was admitted into this after- school program thanks to her qualifications, and this is what she feels like. I suspect that is what many gifted children feel. They feel lonely for many reasons: they spend much time on their own, thinking, reading, studying or practicing. In their regular environment, in school, they are the exception to the rule. They are different and still they are outliers and they get much attention, not a good way to become popular.

The rehearsal ended and the orchestra members were taking their applause and BRAVOS. After the rehearsal our young guests went for some activities with our students and the parents stayed with me. We talked about education, about creativity and about excellence but my thoughts were going back to the loneliness: Even when they are together, gifted young people differ so much form one another that they do not really act as group. “What can we do for them?” one parent asked. The only constructive thing that I can recommend is to change our terminology from a terminology of expectations to a terminology of belief. Instead of having expectations, we should just believe in them and instead of teaching them to expect of themselves we should encourage them to believe in themselves. When you expect, disappointment will eventually come. When you believe, you can cope with anything. Loneliness will never go away, but believing, they might have a little more courage to deal with it.

To be continued. →

Watch this “Open Rehearsal”.
__________________________________________________________________
If you would like to read more about those subjects I welcome you to visit my website at
www.DriveADoubleBass.com

You can also contact me at klinghoffer@jamd.ac.il

Michael

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9 Responses to The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

  1. Matan Gover says:

    Truly wonderful, Michael. Thank you. The story is touching. However I think the following statement in your post is a bit too broad: “Even when they are together, gifted young people differ so much form one another that they do not really act as group.”
    I believe people of all kinds strive for companionship, it’s in our nature to be social animals. My own growing up experience showed me that if I find the right environment with the right people, I won’t have to feel lonely ever again.

    • DEAR MATAN, THANK YOU FOR YOUR REMARK AND FOR EVERYONE ELSE, I WOULD LIKE TO QUOTE ONE PHRASE THAT YOU WROTE IN OUR OTHER CONVERSATION: ” IT IS NOT A BAD LONELINESS, IT IS THE EXISTENTIAL LONELINESS AND IT IS GOOD THAT WE THINK ENOUGH TO FEEL IT”
      זו לא בדידות רעה, זו הבדידות הקיומית, וטוב שאנחנו חושבים מספיק כדי להרגיש אותה.
      WELL, YOU CERTAINLY ARE EXCEPTIONAL!
      HAPPY BIRTHDAY

  2. Jonathan says:

    Her answer made you think again and again – just because education is not about answering the questions – its about questioning the answers.
    All the best
    Jonathan

  3. Gili Stern says:

    When I gorw up i wanna be you michael 🙂

  4. THANK YOU GILI, WHEN YOU GROW UP I AM SURE YOU WILL BE YOUR BEAUTIFUL SELF!!!

  5. Michael G says:

    amazing…
    Children’s mouths speak the truth (chinese/russian proverb)
    about loneliness: i’ve been to a jam session with the dance faculty this week – and i’ve never felt so connected to the “performers” reflecting my playing in 20 different ways at once (they were dancing as a group) and we were just 4 musicians (that’s sad actually; it was such a good experience in improvisation because your music gets an immediate response and you can actually see your music in motion; and get ideas from the dance! and you’re free to stay out of anything – structures, melodies, harmonies – even noises, all are welcome). On the contrary pure music jams (not conducted by a host\leader\style) i’ve been to, tend to loose the very essence of playing together – everyone tries to lead and it brings unwanted disintegration to the band as a whole.
    And the dancers actually listened to music being created from their movements – symbiosis at its best. Also i talked to them after to understand how they felt about it – and i realized they were “experiencing” the music, not dancing to the rhythm or something else; getting the vibe and flowing with it.

  6. הגר מעוז says:

    מיכאל היקר,
    אני נזכרת בחיוך ביום שבו עמדתי על הבמה וכל הילדים ישבו יחד עם התזמורת על הבמה, ומה שכתבת כאן זה בדיוק מה שהיה אז. לא ייאמן איך הם קראו את התחושות שלי בצורה כל כך מדוייקת וכנה.
    זו הייתה חוויה מדהימה שאנצור בלבי.

    ו… יומהולדת שמח! 🙂

  7. Dear Hagar
    Thank you, I knew it would remind you of the time you were the soloist in a similar situation…
    Me too, I still remember your beautiful playing of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto!

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