Friday, July 29, 2016

Leaving your ego at the door....and not for the reasons you'd expect

I love working summers at Interlochen:

    One of my favorite things to do here (and this is encouraged) is to just pull a chair and stand out under a tree and go to work. The summers are mild for the most part and the North Michigan woods are just beautiful. For many folks, this would be terrifying beyond words because of the skill levels of the campers, faculty, and staff here. It used to be for me as well until I figured something out...

   I am not one of the most advanced saxophonists on staff here. We have grad assistance from major music programs, we have folks who are studying saxophone abroad. I am pretty good and getting better but there are folks way above my level here (and that isn't even mentioning folks like Drs McAllister and Shemon, who have been here this summer). So, why do I now enjoy practicing out doors when these folks, as well as ridiculously skilled high school kids (who have a penchant for talking trash about people they hear) are walking by and hearing me?

  The first day I decided to practice outdoors was last summer on a particularly warm day.  I just couldn't find a practice hut which didn't feel like a sauna finally said "To heck with it, I'm finding a shady spot and going!". I was absolutely petrified at first....almost sick to my stomach. Over time, though, I began to realize something and it relaxed me quite a bit because I stopped caring so much that people were hearing me and might hear me make mistakes or play something which sounded bad.

  As I came back this summer, my first days to practice outside were still a little nerve wracking as it was 'Institute Week' here and the sax professors from Michigan, UMKC, Arizona, and Northwestern were all here. I made a point, though, to remind myself of what I had realized last year. That is:

  I have a senior recital this fall and grad school auditions following that. NO ONE hearing me has any effect on either my senior recital or those grad school auditions. NO ONE hearing me is going to hire me or not hire me based on what they are hearing me do as I sit under a tree; metronome clicking away. In short-

Whether they hear me or not has no effect whatsoever on my schooling or career as a saxophonist and educator...

   Once I figured that out, outdoor practice became easy.

    Of course, I still worry about sounding good but not because I'm worried about anyone walking by. I'm worried about sounding good because I always worry (worry isn't the right word here, maybe focus) on playing in tune and with the best sound I can possibly make. That, however, is for my own development and not to impress passers by. Remember that music is a very subjective field and what sounds good to you might not sound so great to others. There are big name saxophonists who I respect the heck out of but wouldn't choose to listen to because I simply don't like their sound or the way they play.

    So, some of you immediately thought- "You just said in two sentences that there are saxophone professors up there and then that your playing outside has no impact on your schooling or career". You're right, there are professors here and they do hear me if they happen to walk by but I have a pretty simple response there....If they decide they wouldn't choose for me to study with them based on what they hear when I'm playing scales or arpeggios under a tree, then their studio isn't where I need to be studying anyway!

   The moral of the story, folks, is this- We are all works in progress. Don't worry about being any more or less talented than anyone else. Don't worry about who hears you practice. Just worry about practicing.

Step by step
Day by day
Ever forward
Get it done!

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