Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Ok, I feel humbled. I spent the day yesterday playing music with two of the members of the music ensemble I play in (one was the director) -- with some others joining in for several pieces. I rate my own performance at about 40%, though it may have inched up to 60% towards the end. (For a full account of what I mean by these numbers, see previous post at: Concert.)

This almost caused serious damage to my self-confidence. But, in my own defense -- we played challenging music; and ever since our concert, I've been practicing flutes instead of recorders, and traditional music more than early music. So I was a bit rusty on recorders with F-fingerings.

But still. It's only been a month!

So, okay, I was surprisingly nervous as well. And that alters one's perceptions and one's abilities. Why nervous? Because I have very high regard for both of these players. They both have a lot of training and experience in music. They are both excellent sight-readers. (While I'm not a hopeless sight-reader myself, it's easier for me to learn by ear. And in the off-season, that's more of what I do.)

Yet, I regard the day as a new kind of success. After all, my self-confidence did not evaporate. I was able to remember these things about myself and these players, and I was able to appreciate their gracious patience with me, without ever slipping into a kind of negative, grumpy interpretation of the situation. I know them better than that. They just wanted to play through a bunch of music and hear how it sounded. I held them back a little, but not hopelessly. They weren't upset. They enjoyed our getting together to play music. And if there was even the slightest trace of a competitive spirit (which there probably wasn't), it only in the end served to boost their own self-confidence -- but that does not need to diminish my own.

It's taken me a long time to get to this kind of place -- a place of radical acceptance of where everyone is, myself included. I can have an off day musically without falling into a total existential crisis about my musical abilities.

I was just plain out of practice (on alto recorder). C'est la vie.

But I also saw: I would rather be in practice on all of the instruments I play, at every moment, so that I can contribute to making a day like yesterday as good as it can be. No, it is not the end of the world to be off. But it is better to be on, because I and the others get more out of the experience when I am on.

But even being "off" flexes everyone's compassion muscles -- and that's not bad either. Maybe it's actually good for people to have off days with each other every now and then to keep everyone well-practiced in graciousness and compassion.

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