I’ve been trying to figure out a way to not squander my day of no work, and even though I feel like all the words in my head are ill-chosen and in the wrong order, I thought I would use some of the day for an attempted blog entry…mostly because I think the rule about practicing when you don’t want to probably applies to writing, as well. Write through the block and so on. It’s a weird dichotomy to have running through your life at all times: burnout frequently needs to run its course while getting stuck with anything skill related usually requires an effort-riddled push for resolution. What really mindfucks me is when I am currently in burnout AND trying to unstuck myself from a practice or writing plateau.
Anyway, hubs and I found a fantastically simple way for me to stay unstucked from practice. We give ourselves excerpt assignments every week. Three or four excerpts (of anything, solo or otherwise) go on the chalkboard downstairs, and in 6 days, we have to play them for each other. It’s brilliant. It doesn’t matter if I’m lazy and only practice the stuff a couple times, or if one of us knows all three of the excerpts and the other doesn’t know any of them (which means considerably more work for one of us for that week); we play them on Sunday, and that’s that. I was worried we wouldn’t follow through with the plan for very long, but it’s been 6 weeks (read 6 times of having to be responsible for a deadline), and we still do it. It has resulted in me being more confident about my abilities, more excited about practicing (apparently, I need assignments, as am 12 and clearly craving homework fml), and less resentful of auditions.
Ahhh now we get to what this blog is really about: auditions. Oh good, so glad I needed to write about this. (FML!)
About five years ago, I stopped taking auditions. Period. Just stopped. It was a long time in coming; I spent most of my college time becoming increasingly dismayed and heartbroken over the way classical music worked as a profession. I mean, in my mind, it was this beautiful, perfect, thing that everyone wanted to do because it was, you know, this beautiful, perfect, thing. I got to school, and thought; ‘Oh Glory! All I have to do now is practice!’ WRONG. For starters. And then there were politics, and assholes in abundance, and stuff that was just stupid but that you had to do anyway, and music that wasn’t music anymore for a fuckton of different reasons, and funding issues, and people that had mommy and daddy pay for everything so all they had to do was practice, and people that were so fucking good they didn’t even need to practice (these guys weren’t really upsetting; it just made auditions slightly sadder), and more politics, and people that did superbly well for who the fuck knows what reason because being a good musician sure wasn’t it. It was such a shock to me that any of this happened in music (I realize that this sort of fuckery happens in every profession; I really believed music, as a profession, would be different…I was a dumb kid), that I flailed and freaked out and then got depressed.
My teachers and coaches were all the bright spots in my life throughout the hot mess that started as my attitude but soon became my self-esteem. They believed in me, all the time, which is more than I can say for my musical friends and even myself, for a good part of it. They pushed me, inspired me, and taught me in a way that forced me to challenge everything and think differently about music and myself at every juncture. They made me fix my mistakes, and then look past them, so I could see why my mistakes were interfering with the music. Whatever happens to me professionally, there is never a moment where I look at myself and say, ‘but you don’t even know how to make that sound like music.’ And the reason is because my teachers trained me, not just to play my violin, but to make music. With every note. They are geniuses.
Auditions are a quirky concept. There isn’t much about them that makes me feel confident that the winner is going to be 1) the musician the orchestra needs or 2) the best musician at that particular audition. They aren’t geared for seeing how someone does or doesn’t play in an orchestra, how they respond to ensemble playing. They ask for a fraction of a fraction of a piece, and expect those 73 notes to tell the committee so much more than it ever could. It’s like asking to see the attic of a house without having to first see the first and second floors. Or like asking a dancer to perform with no music. Or trying to cook a meal with no spices. You could maybe measure technique and how one controls one’s nerves, but still. What the fuck is the point of that, when you can measure technical ability while the person is sitting next to you in a rehearsal?
I don’t have any full-fledged replacement notions, though. Ok, I do, but they are long and involved, and really the focus here should probably stick to how I’m feeling better about auditions. And I do feel better. I feel like I can see it as a game, as a fun, challenging, game, where winning/advancing/not-sucking-ie-despite-not-advancing-still-feeling-good-and-not-shitty-after-43seconds-of-playing would be pretty cool, but in sum total, just one of the more successful three-excerpt weeks between me and hubs. I am finally at a place where taking an audition doesn’t sour my attitude towards music. I don’t know if stopping auditions was the right thing to do (maybe I would have gotten to this place faster, or at least anyway, if I’d kept at it?), but it did force me to appreciate every opportunity for music making to the best of my ability. And to realize that I am ok with my choices and my life, that I authentically love what I do. I had to learn to see auditions as extra, as unneeded, in order for me to want to participate in them. I will make music no matter what, and this is what makes it feasible for me to survive the emotional mindfuck of auditions.
That said, I have yet to take one. I mean, I’m practicing with my heart back in the game – which is great. I have thought about auditions, and the idea doesn’t send me into a spiral of self-loathing and bitterness, the way it used to a couple years ago. That is also great. But I will have to report back with proof. We’ll see.