The International Double Reed Society is holding its annual conference this week in Appleton, WI.
I arrived on campus Tuesday afternoon, having missed the first day of recitals, just in time to settle in and attend the first evening’s Gala Concert. Six soloists, six concertos – and a lot of inspiration. I want to have the sweetness, dynamic range, and effortless projection of Peter Cooper, and I want to be as superhuman as Jose Antonio Masmano. And I want to play his concerto, over and over again every night – Legacy, by Oscar Navarro, was a knock-out piece. Just stunning.
I woke up early on Wednesday morning, went for a walk, drank my coffee, and headed straight back to campus to hear more performances. Celeste Johnson was just about perfect – I loved her sound, her intonation, her repertoire choices. Courtney Miller performed a recital as a duo with a dancer/choreographer, and the project was beautiful, breathtaking, exciting. Joseph Salvalaggio presented two educational works he’d developed himself, and I wondered what I had been doing with my life. As I left his performance, I was overcome with a wave of imposter syndrome, and a level of panic set in.
I’m performing Saturday morning at this conference. It’s a brand new program for me – only about 25 minutes of music, but difficult stuff that I haven’t had the chance to workshop in front of people before. (I’ll be developing it into a full recital to tour in the Fall). I am excited about it but good GOLLY there are a lot of great players here, and I was not at all sure that I could measure up.
But action counters negative emotions, or so I’ve always found, so instead of playing with my phone for 15 minutes before lunch time I found a practice room and soothed my nerves with some calm, steady long tones. Start the note perfectly cleanly, as softly as you can. Could it be softer? Could it be clearer? Could it be more perfect? Crescendo for 8 slow beats, diminuendo for 8, and let the note disappear like smoke rising from a candle. Could it have been better? Do it again. Is that all the forte I have on that note? Is that as nice a taper as I can make? How about the pacing – is it as even from 8 to 1 as it was from 1 to 8?
I didn’t touch my actual repertoire until much later in the day, after dinner, but I did feel immediately better. More stable, more level-headed. And while I’m still not so sure how my performance will go, I do know that I can play the oboe, that I am prepared, and that here at the Double Reed Conference I am among friends and allies. No one is actually perfect, and everyone is just trying to do the best they can and be the best they can be. I’ll fit right in.