|07-31-2008, 08:34 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Washington State
Last Monday afternoon, I arrived in Denver, CO for the International Horn Symposium. After carrying my horn, backpack, and suitcase five long, hot, sweaty blocks from the train station, I checked into the dorm, hauled my stuff upstairs to the room, and showered. Tired, I headed over to the music building to register for the conference. As part of the registration process, I had the opportunity to sign up for participant ensembles. Each category had its own list—high school, university, amateur, over 50, ex-military, and professional. I teach and play horn for a living, but I haven't "proven" myself as a professional by winning an audition. None of the other categories applied, though, so I signed my name on the professional list and headed back to the dorm.
A couple hours later as I was laying in bed reading a book (and almost asleep), I heard someone in the next room start practicing. As I listened, the other horn player began to play more and more impressive things, especially the large leaps into the extreme high register. Such ease and facility! As I laid there, I thought, "How can I call myself a professional when this guy next door plays so much better than I do? I'm going to show up for that ensemble, and the other players are going to think I'm not good enough to be in their group." (And so on....) It only took me a couple minutes of this disheartening thinking before I stopped myself. That thought train would only set me up for an experience I didn't want: to feel like I wasn't good enough, to be apologetic about my playing, to be insecure around my peers, etc.
I chose this perspective instead: I want to have a positive, mutually enjoyable experience. I am open to constructive feedback about how I can improve my playing. (I defined mutually enjoyable as enjoyable for both me and the other people in the ensemble.) If at any moment, the doubts, insecurities, and fears popped up again, I repeated my intention to have a positive, mutually-enjoyable experience. Instead of feeling alone because I knew almost no one there, I decided to view everyone as future friends.
On Wednesday when we had the first ensemble rehearsal, I found that they had split the professionals into two groups. My group had a college professor from Australia, the first horn player from a Mexican orchestra, two people in the Air Force band, another freelancer, an amateur, and a college student. (They had mixed the lists up a little to make the groups the right size.) We had a great time playing together. On two of the pieces, the Air Force guy and I had blast sitting next to each other, honking out great low notes on 7th and 8th horn. On the third piece, I sat 2nd to the Mexican horn player, and we had a great duet. Over and over again he complimented my musicality and tone. By the end of the week we were reluctant to say goodbye and go our separate ways because we had had such a great time together. (The Australian horn player is hosting the conference in two years. He's such an awesome guy and a great horn player. Brisbane, here I come!)
Throughout the week, I encountered many interesting and talented people—teachers, players, horn makers, students, etc. Many of them I met at mealtimes, when I'd sit down at a table in the cafeteria with people I'd didn't know yet. What fun!! One of the university-level horn teachers I met is also a composer and arranger. He and I talked quite a bit. After I decided to buy a copy of his horn concerto and a couple books of arranged songs, he offered me a free horn lesson! Although apprehensive about revealing my horn playing weaknesses, I realized this would be the feedback I had asked for, so I accepted. The lesson was much more about being willing to take risks and play boldly than anything else; Instead of playing conservatively, in fear of making mistakes, to really play the horn, and play it boldly. Somewhere along the way, he commented: You'd be a lot of fun to prepare for an audition! To me, this meant that the fundamentals are in place, my playing is solid at its core, and there are some details that would need polishing. I feel that I now know what I need to add to my practice routine and which details I need to pay more attention to. I feel empowered, inspired, and motivated.
What a great experience!
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