It was winter, now it’s spring
It got humid and my reeds changed
I was tired from driving
The conductor was unclear
I couldn’t hear my entrances
I’m not good at playing second oboe
My reeds are all too old or too new
My oboe is out of adjustment
I wasn’t warmed up because of not playing the first piece
Dvorak is mean to the second oboe
Every one of those thoughts went through my head during the ten minutes that I was onstage playing the piece I couldn’t play, and not one of them was helpful.
Because, ultimately, it was all on me. I couldn’t pull it together, I didn’t do a good job, and I disappointed myself. Bad concerts happen to everyone, occasionally, but in this case it happened to me and it was no fun at all.
A student came in this week, and told me a sad story about the concert she’d played over the weekend. But unlike the defeated me you saw above, she framed everything in the form of a lesson learned. She shouldn’t have had only one good reed to her name. She shouldn’t have left her oboe on the stand. With the reed in it. She should have had more in-progress reeds, instead of just blanks. She should have been brave enough to WORK on the dreadful back-of-the-case reed that she had to perform on, due to having nothing else. She was not going to get caught out in the same way again, she said, and I believe her.
She also said that in the moment she was able to let go of her unachievable desire for a beautiful sound and excellent pitch, accept what she had, and make music through the obstacles she was facing. Was it objectively good playing? Probably not. But was she able to enjoy aspects of the concert, did she keep striving for each note the whole way through, and did she in fact manage to get through the event – on her own- without bailing out and giving up? Yes. She made something work, she dragged some measure of success out of a rough concert, and she forced herself to learn a lesson from it, and I love and respect that.
What’s my point? At some point everyone has a performance that gets the better of them. Everyone flops. There are good ways and bad ways to react to it, and I think in this case – between the two of us – my young oboist came out the winner.
Be like Kimberly.