I am pretty sure that the only stories I read about competitions are from the winners. Those who are ‘so blessed,’ ‘overjoyed,’ ‘in shock,’ ’thankful for all the support to be here,’ ‘etc. etc. etc. etc.’ Those are great — and important to understanding what it is like to be on top of things and handling that — but no one gets to that point without losing first.
So here is a blog post about losing
It is not fun
It is not glamorous
I don’t like it
And it’s been the most helpful thing in my musical career.
I competed recently in our school’s concerto competition and poured in more work to this piece than probably any other piece I’ve ever worked on — and lost. While I received runner up, it still felt pretty bad to have financially and emotionally invested in the music and spent time on it over my audition music for grad school to not be able to take it anywhere. I would be kidding myself if I said I didn’t care about representing the percussion studio and what I stand for musically as well as proving to myself and to others that I had ‘what it takes’ by winning.
But those are the wrong motives and they will not get me — or any other musician — anywhere.
No, I didn’t win the competition: and that’s ok because the process leading up to it was far more important to me. The process is where I grew musically; the process is where I learned to be patient; the process is where I learned to play passages I knew over and over again until they sounded exactly how I wanted them to be. I tend to learn notes and memorize them fast — but not hit them right. I tend to hear musical ideas in my head —and not have them translate onto my keyboard. And here with this piece, I found the opposite happening. Sixteenth note runs were becoming more accurate, choral passages were starting to sing, and the piece was a taking shape.
All because of the process — one that I was hesitant to step into, but one that I am now in. Dr. Kastner, Noel, and Sylvia have been pushing me harder than ever to lay aside my ego and do that hard work — and without having my butt kicked I could not have even begun to put myself into this mind set.
So I didn’t win the competition, but the process and the result showed me how far I’ve come as well as how much farther I need to go. With auditions and a recital as well as trying to learn jazz vibes and some fairly hard repertoire for percussion ensemble, I can easily feel overwhelmed with everything I have to do. But I have time and the patience now to let the process do its work. I find joy in the four to six hours I can drill away at the details now and am looking forward to applying it to everything I have this year. And I would not have such a readiness to work his hard if it were not for the process leading up to that competition.
As for competitions, I felt a I played as best as I could in this scenario. Am I fully satisfied with my performance? Not at all — but it’s the most satisfied I’ve ever been.
But there are competitions where we don’t feel that way — What do we do about those? We can be sad — that’s allowed — but we also can use those opportunities where we simply bomb our pieces to better ourselves.
What made us nervous?
What made us miss notes?
What didn’t sound good?
It’s never fun to mess up in any setting, but we tend to grow far more as musicians from losing than we do from winning. So why do we shun losing so much in our musical culture? No matter how we feel as musicians who bomb a performance or lose a competition, we have to understand that it HAPPENS and that is a part of THE PROCESS to becoming the best musicians we can be. We tend to single ourselves out as if we are the only ones who suck but I am 100% certain that any professional musician out there has countless horror stories of bombed performances.
So embrace the suck – embrace the process. It makes us who we are.
Congratulations to Ryan Dailey who killed it at the comp as well: the process paid off for you. Love you bro — Here’s to a year of learning and becoming the best musicians we can be.
‘Making it’ as a musician is not all about winning, it’s about the failures as well. I am sure the rest of this year will be filled with an abundance of the both.