The Catalyst to Stop Paying Only Half-Attention

By | March 12, 2014

“Join us for an evening of chamber music in the library!”

It’s not for everyone, but I do love live classical music from time to time. So do many gray-haired people, as I have mentioned before.

Anyway, when a free mini-concert was advertised for this evening, I decided to go check it out. I’d forgotten the “gray-haired people” bit of knowledge I used to have.

The event was being held in the library of a graduate college. I assumed the string quartet would be playing inconspicuously in a corner and graduate students would be studying at the desks and tables near the bookshelves and along the window. I figured one or two students would be actively listening to the music, but the rest would come and go as if the musicians weren’t even there. It would be like music playing over the speakers at a coffee shop, or like the street musician playing to passing tourists. Nice to listen to while you’re nearby, and worth a passing glance before you continue on with whatever you’re doing.

It sounded like a pleasant atmosphere in which to work on my blog entry for tonight as well as make a few visual changes to my new blog layout.

After I finished work for the day, I gathered up my laptop and phone and walked to the library, thinking of what I should tackle first once I got there.

I was greeted by lively music streaming out of the open windows of the upper floor of the library, and the following sign upon entering:

Chamber music in the library--the event of the spring!

Chamber music in the library–the event of the spring!

I walked up the stairs and was faced with the setup for an actual mini concert. The musicians were playing in front of a backdrop of books, and there were rows and rows of chairs set up facing them. Most of the chairs were full…of gray-haired people. Not a single one of them was on their phone or laptop or otherwise occupied. They were all fully present, listening attentively to the music.

Catalyst Quartet at the Library

Catalyst Quartet at the Library

I took a seat, placing my laptop—closed—on my lap. I was embarrassed by my inconsiderate assumption of how the situation would be. I had not planned on giving the musicians their full due. I didn’t expect there to be such a rapt and mature audience (and I’m not just talking about the gray hair).

What is wrong with my generation—me—to think we can multi-task everywhere we go? Why do we think we need to be constantly hooked to technology, instead of enjoying ourselves in the moment, no matter what we’re doing? Why on earth did I think it would be okay to attend a concert with my laptop?

I chastised myself for being so rude.

Then I sat back and enjoyed—thoroughly enjoyed—the concert.

The group was called the “Catalyst Quartet.” They were incredible musicians, and still so young! Looking at their bios, I am even more humbled at how I misjudged what I was about to enjoy. From studying at Julliard, to playing at Carnegie Hall, these musicians have a lot of experience and talent. The music was incredible, moving. The musicians were so clearly enjoying themselves. The pieces they chose to play were interesting, complex.

It was over much too soon. I didn’t even care that I hadn’t gotten any work done. That was the farthest thing from my mind.

They’re having a full concert this Friday, which I unfortunately won’t be able to attend.

But for your listening pleasure, here’s a song they played for us, which is an original piece composed by one of the violinists. (Please, don’t check your email or start texting in the middle of it. Just this once.)


P.S. I used to play the violin. I started around the same time they did, when I was 5 years old. It’s interesting to imagine where I might be now, had I devoted myself to the instrument in the same way they did when they were so young.

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2 thoughts on “The Catalyst to Stop Paying Only Half-Attention

  1. Loretta

    What a great reminder, Ev! And not only for concerts and what-not. What about, “What made me think it would be okay to check my email during a tea party with my daughter?” Gut check…

    I feel like I have old fashioned values in general (despise phones at the table and in restaurants), but I’m still guilty of multitasking WAY too much.

    Thanks for the reminder! Hope it sticks with me through the day (and beyond)!

    1. Ev Post author

      Wow, Loretta! That’s such a powerful comment; I never considered what it’s like to have kids in a time where you can so easily get distracted by your gadgets and social media and texting. Thanks for your insight. And may you continue to hold onto your old fashioned values! 🙂

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