Carolyn Steele Agosta
In Search of Passion
By Carolyn Steele Agosta
Recently I have been watching episodes of the TV series, Mozart in the Jungle (on Amazon Prime). And I’m just in awe.
The series is about a young woman, an oboist, who is trying to become a member of the New York Symphony, and about all the different musicians, conductors, managers, janitors, and patrons who are a part of that establishment.
I do love music. I love all kinds – classical, pop, country and folk, all of it, but what really has drawn me to this show is the passion with which it is infused. You can’t escape realizing how hard everyone worked who was involved with the series, from the writing to the acting, directing, the musical numbers. These are people who didn’t do things the easy way and the whole story is about sacrificing your ego in order to achieve something approaching perfection. You have to let go of your fears and self-doubts in order to keep trying and, yes, the irony is – you have to have a certain amount of ego just to believe it’s worth even trying.
Each time one of these episodes ends, I feel like standing up and cheering. There’s just so much heart in these stories. And even if this particular series is not to your taste, I’m sure you’ve seen other shows, or concerts, or football games, or high school marching performances, where you wanted to leap up and shout Bravo! because it was so clear that everyone had done their very best. They had transcended their individual egos to be a completely unified team.
I look for evidences of passion. I seek inspiration, all the time. And it’s out there if you look for it. Not just in team efforts. The person who goes to great trouble to produce the perfectly cooked dish. The caregiver who can still show kindness and patience to an Alzheimer’s patient who has soiled themselves once again. The four-year-old who is determined to perfectly place his Buzz Lightyear sticker in the center of a Valentine’s Day card.
We marvel at the ice-dancing skills of Olympic medalists. Some of them have been with the same partner since they were ten or eleven years old and their whole lives have been filled with passion for their art. I’m in awe of that kind of dedication and perseverance, even if I can relate more to the person who might clutch at the moment of highest pressure.
In Mozart in the Jungle, one of the main characters is a conductor, played by Malcolm McDowell, who has retired from conducting the symphony, and now doesn’t know what to do with himself. He crashes and burns for a little while, and then rises like a phoenix to reinvent himself and find his passion again. Having lived with a passionate obsession all his life, he can’t just settle for a ho-hum ordinary life. At an age when most peoples’ minds have narrowed, he discovers he needs to open his up to new ideas. I dig that about the character. And as for the actor himself, McDowell was 75 years old when he appeared in this series which ended in 2018, and since then, he has been in 20 – TWENTY – productions (just counting the ones on film, he also does live theatre!). Holy mackerel! Now THAT’S inspiring!!
When I watch the show, I can’t help thinking – do the cast and crew know, while they’re in the middle of filming, just how good this show is? They can’t see the episodes as a whole while they’re actually filming – so much is put in after, especially the music – but do they come in to work each day, fired up and excited to get there? Do they wonder, is this the best thing I’ll ever do? Do they have any idea how excited one viewer will be, five years after they finish? I hope they do. (By the way, the first two seasons are terrific, and each episode is better than the one before. But the third season is MAGNIFICENT.)
This is why I go looking for this kind of thing. Passion, dedication, inspiration. They lift us up out of the ordinary and help us aspire to something more, something that calls out the best in us. They help us wake up excited to begin our day, whether our efforts are directed toward landing that perfect triple axel, or performing a challenging piece of music, or crafting a sentence that says exactly what we wanted to convey.
I do highly recommend Mozart in the Jungle for anyone who loves great TV and great music. It has lots of drama and humor and universal truths and craziness and – most of all – inspiring passion.
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