Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Benefits of the Boot

"Ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for your participation in today's orchestra audition. Unfortunately the committee informs me that none of you advanced. On your way out, be sure to help yourselves to a free FAILURE tee shirt and shorts with the BOOT on the back, compliments of our fine orchestra committee. Thank you, and have a nice day."

We've all experienced days like that. Nothing seems to alleviate the painful frustration of an audition dismissal, not even a free tee shirt! A swift kick would be less painful.

So how do you respond to those dreaded words, "NO THANK YOU! NEXT!"  Are there any positive takeaways? Three suggestions. These should impact the efficiency of your practice, maybe the direction of your career, and hopefully your perspective on life. That boot may have actually been a good thing after all.

1. Today's "boot" could be just what your practice sessions need - a total shakeup. Auditions are reality checks that reveal deficiencies that have been neglected or in need of more attention. The orchestra committee expects good intonation, pleasant sound, steady rhythm, clean articulation, accuracy, phrasing, dynamics, and dramatic impact. When these are present, you advance. When they are lacking, you go home.

So, go home and take inventory. The good news is that you now know exactly what to focus on. Organize your practice sessions so that you regularly listen for sound, rhythm, intonation, articulation, musical phrasings, etc. Cleanse your notes. Don't play so much. Make every note count. Pretend that your studio is being bugged and that the committee is listening. Use a tuner, a metronome, a decibel meter, and plan to score major points on your imaginary musical drama sensor!  Your goal is to improve and to impress. "Thank you, next!" is not a death sentence, but just what you needed to hear!

2. Today's "boot" could be the best thing to happen to you - a change in career direction. Being turned down at an audition does not mean that you should give up. However, if there is a pattern of endless struggling with little satisfaction, then a career adjustment could be a wise move. Be realistic in assessing your situation, and consider that there could be something for which you are better-suited. If defeats always defeat you, you're in the wrong business. Be encouraged. That boot could be the beginning of a new and far more rewarding direction for you. 

3. Today's "boot" could be the best thing to happen to you - a better understanding of yourself. This could be the most important takeaway of all. The manner in which you respond to "Thank you, next" reveals a lot about you.  If you're quick with the blame game, anger, bitterness, depression, or self-pity, then you're missing a major benefit of the boot.  None of those negative responses will improve you or your playing.  Life is easier without all of the critical attitudes, and so is trumpet-playing.

Who you are as a person is way more important than how well you play. An audition always shows us our weaknesses, musical and personal. The one who handles adversity with maturity is the one who is best prepared for the next step in life, whether the audition is won or lost.

Armando Ghitalla used to say, "We play the way we are." Use the defeat to step back and take stock of who you are. Life is bigger than an audition. A punch to the gut can provide the humbling that leads to a much improved player and person. Absorb the hit, learn, and go on with life.

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