The way my aunt tells it, I was humming beautiful melodies before I could talk. And when I was about 6 years old, I would tell almost anyone that would listen that I was a musician. I sang sometimes but the biggest part of me knew one day my expression would be through an instrument. I was just waiting to meet that spark. That happened in 5th grade. A tiny, blonde lady came from the middle school to try to persuade us to join the band the next year. I was rowdy so I was not listening to a word she was saying… until some sparkles caught my eye. I looked up in her direction and she began playing notes that moved just as quickly, and elegantly, as the sparkles that danced across the instrument did. I slapped my friend's leg next to me and said “I need to do that”! And so I did. And I had so much fun!
Until I didn’t.
You know when you were a teenager and you loved your parents sooooo much but like, everything they did kind of annoyed you? That is almost exactly how I began feeling about my flute after a while. I loved it so much and still loved to identify as a musician but when I would tell people I played the flute, I would secretly hope they would leave it at that. I would hold my breath in hopes to not hear “OMG, CAN YOU PLAY ME SOMETHING?” The love for the craft was there but the excitement evaporated into thin air. I know many can relate.
Although I noticed the excitement had been gone for a pretty minute, this disposition that I could not understand slapped me in the face towards the middle of my undergraduate career. My professor asked me to play every single studio class (besides like, 3) one semester. The anxiety made me push off practicing and then fear of failure (how do I fail a studio performance) would have me cramming 30 minutes before studio. Different stokes for different folx, but that was not my best recipe for a performance I wanted to be proud of. I had a fear of showing up. (I have a couple of guesses about where the shame and embarrassment stemmed from. I will allow myself to explore that another day.)
I played horribly and I am 100% sure some people were completely offended by the ignorant noises that came out of my flute. But towards the end of the semester when I noticed my teacher was not going to let up on me (thank you for that), I just kept chanting to myself “just show up, just show up”. I gave myself permission to show up poorly. Low and behold, a very important discovery was made. The world does not end when people hear me play poorly. Wow. I am completely shocked. *insert eyeroll* Life goes on and people do not even remember it half of the time.
How brave of me to play so underwhelmingly? It’s almost a joke but really. If I was brave enough to completely suck in front of the best flutists I’d ever met, I could certainly find some strength to show up a bit closer to the flutist I knew I wanted to be. That translated to “just showing up” to the practice room the day before my lesson.
And then “just showing up” the day before my lesson, AND the day after my lesson.
And then those days AND some days before I ate lunch.
And then more often.
And more often..
You get it.
The part that calls for the biggest gumption of bravery is the “just showing up”, however that might look each day. In a perfect world, this would translate into impressing your peers and winning every audition, or whatever else is of considerable importance. It does not necessarily guarantee that, or it hasn’t for me. But what it has guaranteed, is a musical identity built on a foundation of personal acceptance and bravery. That sounds perfectly artistic to me. That’s my point of view from the practice room, anyway.