Maria Zemantauski

photo by Kiki Vassilakis

"This excerpt from "Letter to a Young Musician," by Julius Hartt, was originally published in 1918. The first time I read it, it immediately spoke to me. I have since shared it with many of my students. It still speaks to me and my journey on this Earth as a creative artist and musician. I'm happy to share it with you." Maria

Young musicians often seem to think of music as a professional garment, a sort of uniform that identifies the wearer as a member of a distinctive aesthetic cult. They do not very generally seem to realize that music is a life to be lived. True artistry is a creed; it is a religion. It is not primarily as most young musicians imagine, and many older musicians seem to believe, a means of livelihood. Artistry does not consist in the ability to perform creditably a larger or smaller amount of fine music. It does not consist in reputation.  Large fees bear no necessary relationship to it. Success, as the world views success, is not its symbol. Again I say, my friend, art is a life; it is a kind of living. And it is a kind of life and a kind of living far from the popular or fashionable among music’s nominal devotees. Again I say art is a creed; it is a religion. It is a creed and a religion... I mean that the true artist’s creed begins with self denial. I mean that the artist’s salvation hinges upon self forgetfulness. I would wish that every young musician like yourself would come early to realize that control and subjugation of self, in a hundred thousand ways, is the real technic to be acquired – the technic of right living. Now at the threshold of your career I wish that you could clearly see that no artist’s art is greater than his life. I wish that this great truth might sink deep into your inner consciousness – that art is life. Believe me what you play at your instrument is not only the music of your composer, but it is yourself. Your art is not a professional garment – it is you. If your soul is a little soul, if your life is a little life, then your art is a little art, and you are a little artist. If your ideals rise no higher than your own personal concerns, your own advancement, your own success, your own glory, then you are a heretic to the only real creed of artistry; and whatever devices of concealment you may cultivate, your heresy will be branded large upon the thing you call art. And all real artists and all clear visioned lovers of art will see your shame. ...Music is life. Life is art. Art is nature moulded in the crucible of discipline.(Julius Hartt)