Friday, April 26, 2013

Mamma said they'll be days like this!

Which is worse, physical pain or mental anguish?  Many would say the latter? Smooth sailing is occasionally met with sudden and unexpected bouts of discouragement and depression.  Why? We don't always know. How quickly though we can go from the best of times to the worst of times! Thankfully, turnarounds happen.

Unfortunately discouragement is part of life and the growing process. Don't be surprised when you discover that you didn't leave home without it.  It can be used to your advantage however. Think of it this way. How would we ever learn to overcome adversity if we never had to deal with it? Although the road to improvement has its potholes and roadblocks, they must be viewed as necessary keys for our improvement.

Take the audition/jury/board/testing scenario for instance.  It can be an absolutely dreadful ordeal, agree?  Funny. Auditions may or may not produce a winner, but they always produce a whole bunch of "losers".  Who doesn't hate when that happens? Although it is often brutal, it can be the best experience for us as a person and as a player.  Who never lost at anything?

We are built to fight, not surrender.  A set back is not a defeat.  Losing is not failing.  I just heard it said concerning an audition loss, "it wasn't a waste of time unless you didn't try your best."  Someone will always play better than you, and you will always play better than someone else. Comparison is not the issue.  Consistently trying to do your best is all you can do.  

A little humbling, whether deserved or not, can be just what is needed to jump start improvement and greater maturity. It's so trite, but true: "don't get bitter, get better."  Auditioning takes practice.  The next one will be easier. 

OK. Calling all of us "losers"!  Let's sit down, take stock, evaluate, pray, be grateful, we're not done yet, we haven't lost at anything!  We just experienced an emotional lesson on how to deal with emotions.  Hey, if you want to look at it this way, with each loss comes opportunity for growth.  

Improvement is not without discomfort, and pain is part of progress. No one is exempt from days like this, Mamma said!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What's on your mind?

Thoughts matter.  As the brain dictates, the body responds. What are you feeding your brain?  If we are constantly downloading the negative and fearful, things will not end well.  Begin instead to build a successful performance mindset.  If we can begin to control our thoughts, we have taken the first step towards mastery. 

Don't you like words that support what you want to do, words that describe what you are training to do and to be? Make this summer a time of taking mental and verbal inventory.  You still have to practice of course, but why limp around in heavy shackles making improvement next to impossible?  Inject the positive and reject the negative. "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he."

Here are some of our old unfavorites which we want to obliterate from our thoughts, conversation, and playing:
  • Fearful
  • Inhibited
  • Cautious
  • Apologetic
  • Tiptoeing
  • Hesitant
  • Insecure
  • Visibly unprepared
  • Nervous 
  • Uncontrolled 
  • Boring 
  • Weak
How about these instead?
  • Confident
  • Expressive
  • Bold
  • Risk-taking
  • Leading
  • Soloistic
  • Sensitive
  • Flexible
  • Musical 
  • Controlled 
  • Powerful
  • Dramatic   
Note:  For all who have ever observed and/or heard Bud Herseth playing or speaking, this second list well describes him.  He had no time for fear or negative thoughts. He seemed never to have even given them a first thought.  He was way too busy making great music on his trumpet. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bud Herseth Remembered

When asked how he would like posterity to remember him, Bud Herseth replied, “as a fairly decent guy who gave it his best every time he had the chance.”

For those connected in any way with Mr. Herseth either personally or through his many recordings, master classes, or concert performances, it can certainly be said that his request was granted.  Never was he known to deliver anything but his best effort.  It was difficult not to come away impressed, improved, and inspired by both his amazing playing and perhaps his secret weapon, that carefree and musical approach that was so Bud!  

In one of my lessons with Mr. Herseth we worked on the Credo of Bach's b Minor Mass. I was struggling on the piccolo trumpet with the high parts, and needed his input.  I don't know exactly what he told me, but after a few moments of walking energetically around the room, singing and gesturing dramatically, he said, now try it again, Phil.  Whatever he did worked.  I proceeded to get up a head of steam and sailed all the way up to the top of the line, feeling like I could hold onto that high G forever!  For once I was not blasting and pressing, but floating and singing. I couldn't resist laughing in amazement.  He smiled and nodded.

If only that kind of communication could be bottled and reopened whenever needed!  I then told him I didn't know exactly how much he charged for a lesson, but it was worth ten times that amount.  He declined any payment of course. 

Making someone confident, encouraged and happy with himself was a big part of who he was.  He was definitely way more than a decent guy who gave his best every time. Time spent with him, or just listening to him, was simply unforgettable.  How wonderfully he could bring out the best in you! That was Bud!