I often delve into my own frustrations, my own fears, my own weaknesses. It's scary stuff....
....almost like being on stage can be scary stuff.
This is one of those vulnerable moments because to make some points I have to let you into my psyche.
The past few years have been very difficult for me as a player.
You see, my last year or so of undergraduate study was crazy. I had confidence on a level I'd never had before. I was a showman on stage. I was winking at the accompanist, working the crowd, and was never afraid to cut loose. I won the concerto competition, was a featured soloist in the jazz band, and received Performing Artist of the Year awards from my school.
and then grad school started and everything took a nose dive.
I didn't have a single what I thought to be good or even DECENT solo performance. One was a borderline disaster. The rest of the studio seemed to think I was a joke. Hell, most of the department seemed to think I was a joke. The thought of stepping on stage was just terrifying to me.
It was almost a blessing when I received word from my major professor last summer that he was no longer going to be teaching there. It was my out. It was a way to start over. "I'll take a year off, work, and practice my tail off.", I thought. I was in contact with several programs whose teachers, for whatever reason, still saw potential in me and I thought I could get in somewhere else.
That year turned into about three months.
I had an opportunity fall into my lap. The professor and I shared a common teacher. We got along really well and the school seemed like a good opportunity. Besides, my girlfriend was already doing grad studies there in clarinet. How perfect was that?
My initial audition was just for the professor since it was over winter break and no other professors were in town. It went fairly well. He made a video to show the others. It was enough to get me in; at least for the semester.
I had a follow up audition a few weeks ago. It also apparently was enough to get me in but I still lacked that feeling I'd had in undergrad where I walk in fully believing that I was about to blow minds and change lives with what I was going to do with my horn.
Now, I have my first public performance here in a few weeks for a composer's conference. It's a world premiere. To say I'm not yet comfortable with performing this piece is an understatement.
So where am I going with all this?
Well for starters, I cannot fully put my finger on why things went so cockeyed at my first grad program. I just know it did. What I CAN do is work on how to get out of the funk I'm in. This is what I think is relevant and just might help others.
- I'm in a funk because I care so deeply about what I'm doing. This is my life. This is how I best tell people who I am. This isn't just important. This is ME. This is the biggest part of who I am.
- I'm in a funk because I miss the thrill of performing as a soloist. I used to champ at the bit to get on stage. I need that back. The thrill of being on stage and truly entertaining people is something I must have in my life.
- I'm in a funk because I don't want to let down those in my corner.
- Because I care so deeply about what I'm doing, I have a bad habit of setting impossible standards for myself. This is a process and what I hear as a horrible performance isn't necessarily what others hear AT ALL.
- Two extra years of practice means my ear has continued to develop and details I previously either didn't hear or didn't know to notice are now ever present while I play. It means I'm continuing to grow as a saxophonist and a musician.
- Those in my corner only want the best for me and only care that I work hard, succeed, and find happiness.
I think so much of the time our growth can be difficult and painful because we make it so. Our fear, our doubts, our inability to just let go just get in our way. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It means we care. It means this is something that matters to us.
I don't have a real answer on how I'm going to get my confidence back to where it was in the spring of 2016. I just feel that my first real step was this admission and knowing I'll find my way back.
If you're having the same issues, I hope you find your way with me!