A phrase coined by Dr. Bob Pritchard which I often heard while taking MUSC 119 has become a general life motto for me lately. It’s a rule that I sort of forgot, and when I would get a tough-looking orchestra part or a new piece for Contemporary Players, I would panic and stress myself way beyond necessary, and that, you know, is a bit of a downer. And then by the next week or a few days later I’d realize that actually it isn’t a huge deal and it will be fine, it’s always fine, but I just can’t seem to learn that.
So I was at Laptop Orchestra (another class taught by Dr. Bob) when we received our next project, in which I will be learning four pieces in about four weeks. And then he said: “Rule Number One? Don’t Panic.”
Oh yeah, I though. That’s right. I forgot about that. So I didn’t panic. I was fine. I didn’t start stressing. It’s going to be totally fine, I told myself. And it will be. And then I went home and rewarded myself with leftover pumpkin pie for being so cool and collected. Go me!
It was pretty astounding how out of hand I was letting my panic get. And it’s pretty amazing what a difference it can make if you can just remember Rule Number One.
(Also if you are reading this, Dr. Bob, hello!)
Come this Friday evening, I will be performing in the UBC Symphonic Wind Ensemble’s first concert of the year. About a year ago, I was doing the same thing. Look back at myself from that time, I’m amazed at how much improvement I’ve made in my ensemble playing skills.
Last year, I was so nervous I could barely even focus, let alone play musically. Whenever I made a mistake, I would beat myself up about it horribly, even walking home crying sometimes. That wasn’t productive for me or the ensemble. I had trouble making entrances in time, I didn’t count rests well, I was terrible at looking up at the conductor while playing, and sometimes I didn’t even have my parts properly prepared.
Since then, I’ve learned that confidence is the best thing you can do for your playing. Letting nerves get in the way just screws you over before you’ve even started playing. I also figured out that it’s OKAY to make mistakes, that’s what rehearsals are for! Everyone makes them, and no one is going to hate your guts because of it, so no reason to be nervous. I learned to deal with mistakes productively; ie. identifying the problem and fixing it without getting upset, rather than taking it way too personally and making myself unable to solve the problem. I’ve learned to always have my parts learned fully for rehearsal (seems like a no brainer, but it’s just a matter of prioritizing I somehow didn’t grasp), I count better (usually..), and I’ve gotten way better at looking up at the conductor.
It’s truly amazing what a difference a year can make! Just wait til I’m in fourth year, I’ll be unstoppable!