In 2003 the symphony in which I played second oboe and English horn shut down due to lack of funding. The orchestra’s demise brought on an identity crisis for me.
All my life I had been a “musician.” When I was three my babysitter taught me to play a simple song on the ukulele—”Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Something of that ilk. When my mother came home, I demonstrated my new skill. She was impressed.
From then on, I took piano lessons (largely forgotten), flute lessons (also almost entirely forgotten), and finally oboe lessons. I began playing second oboe with an adult amateur orchestra in junior high and majored in music in college.
After several years of freelancing, working a “day job,” and becoming a mother, triumphing over 199 other auditionees, I landed the second oboe/English horn job with the symphony. For nineteen years, my life was teaching oboe, raising my daughter, and playing in the symphony. During that time I played incredible masterworks, watched students improve and learn, and saw my daughter graduate from high school.
Then the symphony went out of business.
The sudden change left me in a state of shock. Except for my students, I now had no musical life. At 47, I had put my whole life into music. I couldn’t just get another symphony job, though. I hadn’t prepared for an audition for years. And against all those fresh, young competitors? But if I wasn’t a musician, who was I?
I was terrified. A bachelor’s degree in music is not respected in the business world. I applied for every job I could conceivably match my resume to. No luck. Not enough computer skills. No public relations experience. No personnel experience. Finally, my background with kids attracted notice, and I was called back for an interview as a Special Education Paraprofessional. The kids I would be dealing with had ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, and Asberger’s. I would go into the classroom with them and help them “mainstream.”
This job should have been perfect for me. I loved the idea of helping everybody—students, teachers, and special education professionals. However, except for special ed teachers, nobody wanted me there. The students wanted to be “normal,” and normal kids didn’t have help in the classroom. For the teachers, planning with me was just one more thing to do. So, after three years as a SPED para and trying a year as a library paraprofessional (a poor fit since books are the smallest part of a modern librarian’s duties), not having found a home in the schools, I moved on.
During this time, my daughter had studied in college, graduated, and gone on to work on a master’s degree. She didn’t live at home, and I was alone, having divorced some time ago. I moved to a smaller house and found a job with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), also child-centered, supervising child visits with non-custodial parents.
For a couple of years, I couldn’t have been more pleased with my job. Then, due to an expansion, the scope of my job shrank, though my duties increased. At the same time, my mother’s dementia demanded help. We lived in townhouses across the street from one another. I quit my job to care for her.
Caregiving can be discouraging and emotionally exhausting. Writing gave me a new outlet for my musical background. I wrote the Musical Murders series and escaped to a world of my own creation. Finally, my “job” seemed to fit, although I wasn’t getting paid.
That was eight years ago, and my mother has just made her transition. Will writing continue to be the right place for me? Or will something else turn up? Will I be somebody else? We’ll see.
Have you gone through an identity crisis? What set it off? What was the solution? Answer in the comments. I look forward to your responses.
A Musical Murder Mystery: Book 1
Publication Date: June 8, 2021
When a symphony musician is murdered—bashed with her own bassoon—flute player Emily Wilson becomes the prime suspect. To save herself and secure justice for her murdered friend, she must find the killer.
In the close-knit, unforgiving environment of the symphony orchestra Emily makes her way through the tender egos and warped relationships of her fellow musicians to find tantalizing clues. Blackmail, the victim’s abusive ex-boyfriend, an angry neighbor, and a shifty Symphony Board member all lead her to feel she is on the right track.
With the dogged Lieutenant Gordon on her trail, she must flee from the police so she can continue her search. She unexpectedly finds a loyal female friend and the possibility of a new man in her life. But she must learn to trust again after her failed and abusive marriage. With time running out, will she be able to evade the lieutenant, face her personal demons, and clear her name?
Barbara Bowen is a freelance writer. She was a finalist and Honorable Mention in the 2018 Focus: Eddy Awards for her article, “Letting Go with Grace,” published in Unity Magazine. Ms. Bowen is also an accomplished professional oboist who played with the Colorado Springs Symphony for nineteen years.
Drawing on her quirky fellow musicians and orchestral experiences, she created the mystery series, Musical Murders. The first is Music is Murder (Release date, 6-9-21). The second is Ballistics at the Ballet (Release date TBA) The third is Fireworks on the Fourth (Release date TBA).
She is a member of Sisters in Crime, lives in Colorado with two canine friends, and has a stock of musical puns and a song for any occasion. Contact Barbara at: www.barbarabowenauthor.com or www.bookbub.com/authors/b-j-bowen
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