My graduation will be here (hopefully) before I know it. With the end of my career as a student in the visible distance, I’m filled with mixed emotions and ideas concerning my future – specifically in music. As much as I’ve enjoyed working as a “professional” in the freelance scene in Los Angeles and the Memphis area, I have to decide whether I’m going to continue chasing these pavements or settle down where I’m happy and content. The only thing we have as people to assist in decisions like these is our life experience, and for myself, those experiences themselves are mixed.
Before moving to Los Angeles, one of my biggest “gigs” was playing with the South Arkansas Symphony, about 4 hours south of Memphis. I enjoyed it very much, from a “gaining experience” point of view, but at the end of the day it was a lot like going to a regular job sometimes. No matter how much you love your work, there are days when you’d just rather be doing something else, and I’m no exception to that. Even though I’m much busier in L.A. than I was in Memphis, I’d consider the American Youth Symphony my main “gig” here. I love the group dearly, don’t think that I don’t, but again – sometimes Saturday mornings would be more enjoyable at a champagne brunch with your husband than at a rehearsal. Occasionally I’ve dealt with musicians in these groups (and others) that I don’t enjoy at all, but the applause from a receptive and thankful audience after a great performance, for me, is the drug that keeps me coming back. That, and the money, of course. Never, though, have I been exposed to the smug, arrogant superiority I saw on a blog of another musician this weekend.
Some time ago an orchestra in some city had auditions for a position that, apparently didn’t go so well (I’m going to try to remain as anonymous as possible, because I don’t want anyone coming for me, yet). One of the panel members, upon deciding that no one should be chosen, felt it necessary to blog this experience, describing himself and the rest of the panel as being “embarrassed…for the way our instrument was being treated”. I get what he was going for in the article – ‘this is what NOT to do at an audition’, but before I’d spend my time talking about how everyone sucked, I’d think about what I could do better on my end, like the invitation process for the auditions. This specific orchestra only invites candidates to audition, so clearly there is an issue with this process if you don’t like anyone you chose to come. When I sat on the American Youth Symphony panel for a number of auditions last year, I chose not to disclose my feelings of the auditions publically (and I still won’t), because it would make me look like a pretentious jerk. It’s easy to talk smack from the other side of the curtain, and doing so only adds insult to injury, especially if no one is chosen. That in itself, to me, is laughable. I can hear them now – “It’s too bad that none of the people we invited to this audition are good enough to join us and sit next to me”. It’s really funny.
Maybe my little rant is uncalled for, but it raises questions about my future when I consider the negative experiences behind being an orchestral musician. Do I want to mix myself up in nonsense like this for the sake of music, or be around people I actually like everyday? How long would I allow myself to sit next to someone I hate, or look at a conductor I think is useless? Is this what I’m looking forward to? All music performance students should consider these questions, because music requires an emotional investment and connection with others, and that’s hard if your cohorts like boosting themselves up by standing on top of other people’s failures. As for me, I’m going to work hard to make sure people don’t think I’m a jerk, because personally, my ego doesn’t require it. :-)