April 25, 2013  |  Music

I have been working on a production of A Chorus Line lately. It’s the long-running Broadway hit from the 1970s that chronicles an audition for a fictional Broadway show. The material for the show, which profiles each of the dancers at the audition, is taken from a series of interviews that the writers did with real Broadway dancers. The characters spend a lot of time describing what led them into dance as a career, and the various struggles that they overcame on the road to becoming professional Broadway dancers.

There’s a lot about this career trajectory that also applies to musicians. We begin training for our careers at a very young age, usually before we really understand the implications and sacrifices of choosing a career in the arts.

It’s not likely that anyone would ever create a show about musicians auditioning. That’s because all professional orchestra auditions are done behind a screen, to preserve the anonymity of the applicant until the very end. This is supposed to equalize the entire process and make it more fair for everyone. At auditions, they even make sure that the walkway to the music stand where you audition is carpeted, so that the committee wouldn’t be able to distinguish between male and female applicants based on the sound of their shoes.

At one point in A Chorus Line, the dancers examine the question of what they would do with their lives if they couldn’t dance anymore. This is a question to which many artists can relate. We all rely on certain physical abilities to do our jobs, whether it is the strength of our arms and fingers, or even our hearing. Any of those could theoretically disappear at any time, and then what would we do with our lives?

It’s a somber question. Some professions, like dancing, are limited by age. Luckily, musicians can continue to have a career throughout their lives as long as they take care of themselves.

In the show, the dancers also parse through some of their other options — like opening a dance studio. Many musicians teach throughout their career; all of us in Third Wheel are active teachers. Is that giving up? Or selling out?

Most of us don’t think so. Teaching is a rewarding way to pass along the knowledge that we have worked so hard to learn, and making sure that younger students have the opportunity to develop the same love and satisfaction in music that has led us to make music our career.

Ultimately, the question is answered in the show by this moving response, reminding us that the sacrifices we make are worth it in the end, as long as you made them for the right reasons.