Be Jack (or Jill)! – Why I Hacked My Inner Jack to Jill Up My Creative Hill: The Ash Barty Story

French horn player and composer Brian KM.

November 2, 2023

I’m Erika
 I’m a violinist and teacher based in the Seattle area. I love learning everything about the violin, how to be a more effective teacher and holistic player, and new ways to approach repertoire and artistry.
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By Brian Kavolius-Matherne

Originally published February 26, 2021

A Note From Erika: I’m thrilled to feature my friend, Brian Kavolius-Matherne, in At The Balance Point’s first guest post!

Brian is a horn and electronics soloist and composer currently based in Hawaii. He served in the United States Navy and is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts. As a fierce advocate for musical outreach in educational settings, Brian contributes hundreds of hours of volunteer teaching for local high schools and maintains an active horn studio. A collaborator at heart, he organizes performances with a common theme of connection to another art form, such as winemaking, brewing, or photography.

I know Brian as a multi-talented performer/composer, photographer, and tennis enthusiast, and hope you enjoy this article!

Let’s talk about Ash Barty. She’s world #1 on the world tennis circuit as I write this. She’s won over $17 million in prize money for her tennis playing, and among other achievements, won the French Open Singles Title—one of the most grueling accomplishments in the sport. Her doubles results are even more impressive. I imagine that takes years of dedication, focused practice, and a robust support network to achieve these kind of results, and I’m sure she is happy with them!

Would you like to see a picture of her?

Embed from Getty Images

No, I didn’t miswrite, or link the wrong photograph. At the end of the 2014 tennis season, Ash Barty announced that she was “(taking) a break from professional tennis.” In 2015, Barty picked up a cricket bat and was recruited by the Australian cricket club, the Brisbane Heat. She played for for a variety of professional cricket clubs during her “break”, and was the leading scorer for one league’s grand final match.

Ash Barty rejoined the professional tennis circuit in 2016, only weeks after her last cricket match. Since then she has continued her success. She did not play a full season in 2020 due to Covid-19, but it is reasonable to expect her to win more tournaments in the future.

What can we learn from Ash Barty? What did I learn from Ash Barty?

It’s okay to do more than one thing.

It’s okay to do more than one thing!

To write this post, I got interested in other “top performers” who are “top” or “high” performers in other fields. 

Gordon Ramsay, world famous chef, has participated in marathons, ultramarathons, and competed in the Ironman World Championship twice!

Novak Djokovic, Men’s #1 Tennis Player is an accomplished skier.

Rachel Maddow, Rhodes Scholar and MSNBC New Anchor is an amateur bartender- who is apparently good enough to research and serve vintage cocktails at the White House Correspondents’ dinner afterparty!

It’s okay to do more than one thing. There are so many top performers all around the world who are doing multiple things. It’s okay to do more than one thing!

What am I doing with my more than one thing?

I play French horn. The majority of my career has been spent with a brass quintet for the military. When I would go to play with the quintet, I would utilize my knowledge from the orchestra, wind band, and solo experiences to play my parts better and inspire my fellow players.

I’m a composer. I use my experience as a horn player to understand what I want to see in the part and hear in the music. I have played thousands of different pieces and I can draw on that knowledge to make my pieces better. I also use my experience as a composer to better understand what I’m supposed to do when playing horn.

I’m a photographer. I use my photographs often to inspire my compositions. Two of my pieces are based on photographs (they’re other people’s photographs, but stay tuned!). When I’m out in the field, I often think of music for the scene in front of me! 

I compose for horn and electronics. I use my understanding of music flow and show design from my experience as a horn player and design show concepts that I think will be fun to play and hear. I then use the tools I’ve learned in my electronic work to better play my horn and, in 2020, deliver the audio quality that I need.

The point that I’m trying to make is that all of it, all of you, is connected. Everything you spend time on and try to get better at will teach you things to broaden your understanding of many more things. There are a few folks out there who talk about how it’s dangerous to be a Jack (or Jill) of all trades. What will happen if you don’t master any of them? Don’t buy it. Go do what it is that you do and what it is that you are, and the rest will follow. Let yourself be a rounded artist and a scholar of life. Your heart will thank you for it.

To hear Brian’s compositions and learn more about his work as a musician, teacher, and photographer, visit Brian’s website, or on Facebook.

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