Hello! My name is Robert Brooks Carlson, but my friends and loved ones call me Bobby. As of July 2022, I am 23 years old and taking the first steps in my career as a pianist. To be frank, I am not starting this blog for any particular audience or with the illusion that I have any advice to offer, but rather to give myself an opportunity to develop a habit of self-awareness and self-acceptance.

A life in music is a difficult one, however I have been told it is an endlessly meaningful one if you do it right. Like so many of my friends and those before me, I am beginning to experience the totally predictable, but nevertheless unanticipated trauma of the artist in their 20’s—I have been quickly figuring out that “doing it right” rarely happens by chance. I have entered a period of my life where I am seriously questioning my identity as a pianist and as a person, trying to get a clear(er) picture of who I want to be and what I want to contribute to the world around me.

With my teacher, the wonderful Soyeon Kate Lee.

It was certainly catalyzed by the pandemic and the way my life has changed in the past few years, but idyllic career aspirations such as “I want to play concerts and share music with the world” alongside other wrung-out, Hallmark-esque tropes were no longer satisfying to me. I have been truly blessed to have a few mentors in my life who have really pushed me to begin the work of figuring myself out, where I want to go, and what I need to do to get there.

So far, I have come to realize that I live much of my life as a musician obsessively looking backwards. It would certainly make for an easier conversation, but I don’t mean this in terms of the repertoire I study and the sort of anachronistic fetishism we all seem to indulge in. Rather, I am referring to a habit of mine to look into the past and make excuses for the ignorance of age and inexperience I had no choice but to work with. It has been difficult for me to understand what it means to be a life-long student—despite the numerous accomplishments available to any musician, there is no true arrival point where one has “made it.” There will always be more to learn, more to discover, and more to disagree with—the work is everlasting. The anxiety department of my brain is terrified of this fact, while the rest of me is blown away by the impossibility and limitlessness of how beautiful this can all be. My careerist, achievement centered ego struggles with a tension between a deep desire to learn/achieve, and the natural inferiority implicated by the process of learning anything. Of course, that is a trivial notion and I have not said anything remarkable, but I believe this is a deeply consequential concept. It is not an easy skill to simultaneously look ever-forward while maintaining a sense of peace and acceptance for where one currently is. I really think that any hope of “doing it right” (whatever that even means) in this profession will require me to figure this out—sooner than later. 

A game I have always played while writing is to ask myself “will Bobby look back on this in a year and regret this with his whole heart, mind, and soul?” One might be able to guess that this is a horribly inefficient way to get work done. Besides writing, I often feel locked up at many crossroads in life because I rarely allow my wants and desires of today to take precedence over the possibility of a future regret. Few choices are spontaneous, and the stakes always feel high. Now, anyone who happens to come across this and does not resonate with what I just said might think “well that’s dumb and you should not do that, end of story.” That would be, basically, good advice. While thoughts and perspectives like the ones I mentioned above seem so obviously toxic—especially when you commit them to writing, yikes—its so easy for these narratives to float around in the back of my brain and influence the life I live. Of course, I could never know for certain, but I have a hunch I’m not the only person who has thought that way. From conversations I have had with some of my friends, I believe that many musicians, in particular, spend time in that sort of mental space. Most of us are obsessed with getting better and, I mean this specifically, not making mistakes *, which can lead to either incredible anxiety or total inaction. 

* From a time when I really ought to have been more concerned about making mistakes… I admire this kid’s lack of inhibition… (circa 2010)

It has been an amazingly difficult experiment for me to even write this post—the agonizing calculations and emotional/logical twists and turns and knots of writing have been revealing to me in the way that I allow (or fail to allow) myself to speak and express openly. This blog will be a sort of open journal where I’ll process my experiences as a young pianist looking forward to a professional life and, as I have already started to do, therapize myself a bit. I do not anticipate that I will dive quite as deep into my *troubled* psyche (as I have today), but many of these thoughts are undercurrents present in my life that influence how I think/talk about things. On the surface, I plan to share my preparation for competitions, festivals, and concerts, discuss music that is meaningful (or troubling) to me, and share some snapshots of my non-musical loves, including baking, poetry, friends, travel, and, undoubtedly, my cat Olive. If I can manage to keep up with myself, this blog should capture an impression of my experiences as I see them now—ignorance, shall we say, forever immortalized by the miracle of the internet. 


I hope to live my life with eyes and arms wide open. Whatever ends up transpiring, my goal is to take charge and celebrate the wild uncertainties of being a life-long student—as it happens. For me, this blog experiment is not about demonstrating intelligence, talent, or maturity, but about cherishing the process of growth, being young and stupid, and ultimately, learning.

Perhaps one day future Bobby will look back and complain that I should have done things differently when I was 23 or that I should not have worn that fedora when I was 12. My response: Duh, but where’s the fun in that? Screw that guy—I’ll do what feels right. 

See you somewhere, sometime,


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