Second Place Essay: "Conflict of Interest"
by Diana Cassar-Uhl ’95
I'm contemplating ending my career as a clarinetist. It's a choice I never expected to face. I thought I'd stay at my job until retirement. Music chose me -- I know I could never have pursued anything else without feeling paralyzing regret.
I'm not sure how I got here. One might assume that giving birth to my first child was the turning point that ripped me from my commitment to music, but I experienced a career-defining performance when Anna was not yet 8 months old.
About two years ago, at what might have been be my last solo recital, another musician was amazed that I, a mother of two young children, could give a recital. I wanted to tell her that I wasn't balancing my career with motherhood the way it seemed I was, that I was losing my mind and felt completely out of control.
My recital program spoke of my past, my present, and my future as a musician and as a human. I had no idea just how connected to that music I would feel until I was giving the performance. It was the first time in years that I wasn't just playing the notes. I had a lot of things to say, about who I was, what I am going through, and what I desire.
I finished my recital with Appalachian Spring, and it was the stuff dreams are made of. My heart was on my sleeve during that 25 minutes of my life. There were exquisitely musical moments, and the big, sweeping statement of "Simple Gifts" told everyone what I really want -- to be simple and free!
I sobbed, right there on the stage. I was filled with joy and sadness and direction and confusion all at once. I crave the simplicity of motherhood, without the shackles of all this "otherhood…" the tangible pain that has crept into my musical experience; the despair I feel to my core because I can't ignore the dichotomy; there are instances of humanity and beauty in my job, but they are overshadowed by cynicism.
This is why I struggle with the difficulties of balancing my hard-sought career with my even harder-sought family. I can’t pretend to feel proud that I’m leaving my children. This negative force brings me frustration and illness. My children are infected with my anger.
I don’t know whether I’ll stay or go. Music has forever claimed a part of who I am. I don't know whether I'll find a way to satisfy that need, or if that part of me will go unanswered.