My most memorable meals have been when I was really hungry. I can recall the steak dinner I ate when I was 20 after an 8-day backpack. I was so hungry that after I finished the meal, I ordered the same thing again.
I’ve had more expensive steak dinners since, but none tasted more delicious and was received more gratefully than that one.
Music satisfies our emotional appetite in a very similar way.
I have played music for people that are hungry for music. The sense of enjoyment and connection and clear desire to be right where they are at that moment is communicated in smiles and, occasionally, tears.
And there are also people who have no particular hunger for the music. A lack of appetite points their attention to other things — the technique, the phrasing, the acoustics, how it compares to other performances.
I played for many of these people when I was younger. They were easily found at recitals and competitions where lots of other violinists waited their turn to play.
Other times, I have simply misread the appetite. I served folks an entree when an appetizer was desired. Knowing when to play an Irish reel and not a 3-movement concerto is a good life skill.
I have become more skilled at when and what to play these days. And as a teacher, I try to help my students experience the pleasure that comes from playing just the right song for people with an appetite for music.