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Forte: Music takes him places

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A few weeks ago, a friend asked me a hypothetical question: What would I do if I could go back in time to choose any career in the world, with no regard for its practicality?

I thought about it for a couple of minutes and determined that I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing. I share an art form I love with an engaged, eager audience. My career demands my heart and soul, and I’m constantly challenged by new and energizing obstacles.

Additionally, music has taken me all over the world.

Many musicians in the Yakima Symphony Orchestra enjoy a professional life far beyond Yakima. For most, the Yakima Symphony is a piece of a much larger life puzzle. Some of us are full-time teachers and professors, some are professional composers, and some have jobs completely outside the musical world. A friend of mine recently called what I do as playing in “The Freeway Philharmonic.”

The Freeway Philharmonic represents those of us who drive from orchestral gig to gig, around the country, nearly every week. This year alone I have logged more than 10,000 miles driving to and from gigs. As I write this now, I am in Lincoln City, Ore., playing percussion in a summer festival orchestra. When this is published, I will be in McCall, Idaho, playing timpani with a different orchestra.

This work demands enormous investments of money, time and gas. The payoff, however, is immensely worth it: It’s a front-row seat to fabulous concerts every weekend, and an opportunity to be paid to travel.

Most importantly, it’s a deep connection with the larger musical community I’m lucky enough to be a part of.

Anyway, for those who may wonder what I do “for work,” there’s never an easy answer. I teach, I play, I travel and I practice. I’m serving a community that supports me, and it’s exactly what I want to be doing.

• Josh Gianola is principal percussion for the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. Learn more about the YSO at

Reach Tammy Ayer at or on Facebook.

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