I have a confession to make- I struggled with correctly spelling the word ‘Resiliency’ (twice). But, I paused, thought about it, course corrected, and moved on. I believe we are constantly being tested and our resiliency will make us or break us, in life and in music making. By the way, I am happy to report that by the third time I wrote the word ‘resiliency’, I had no troubles.
At the turn of the new year, I was *so* pumped to roll into 2020 like never before. I could not wait to see what this year has in store. I don’t know if it’s the start of a new decade, or simply that it is the year 2020 (how cool is that!?). I mean, how lucky are we to get to witness a year that functions as an expression and as an eyesight prescription! The number 2020 has so many meanings, and is so perfectly patterned. In 2020, I have multiple presentations for piano teachers scheduled, a family trip to Mexico, concerts of my original music booked, my album launch, local concerts performing in musicals, dance performances in Miami and Chicago choreographed to my original music, a yoga retreat in Hawaii with my lifelong bestie, family visits, and the list goes on. What could be better?
But! Within the first week of 2020, I have been hit with some very minor whammies. Within one week, the School of Rock musical I was scheduled to play for weeks in May did not get its’ rights approved, so it’s a no-go. Then, the director from the theater in the park show I was excited to play for this summer told me she would find someone else for various reasons, after I may or may not have changed my San Francisco solo concert that fell on the same weekend, and now the venue is completely booked in 2020. Yikes. Sadly, the church I adored playing for once a month last year suddenly doesn’t need me until April. My beloved long time student who is pure joy to work with decided she is taking a break until spring (hopefully), and the list continues. The biggest whammy came when I blocked out my schedule for three months after being hired for a very exciting musical theater production in town. I was excited to play that particular music, to work with the fun new director, and most importantly, to feel personally and musically connected in my new community. Out of nowhere, the gig was offered to someone else. I think you get the point….
Each of these tiny tidbits of bad news feels like a little punch in the gut. I sit with the uncomfortable sensations in my body. I say to myself that these opportunities were not meant for me. I try to move forward with as much grace and humility as I can muster. I realize these are not life altering events. The international piano teaching community has been hit very hard with life changing events in the last few months and my heart aches for some inspiring teachers around the globe. This story is completely unrelated and simply shines a light on coping with mild set backs, not life altering traumatic events.
Some people might take all of these little set backs as a sign to throw in the towel. I see them as par for the course. I am realizing that I am an eternal optimist. My gut reaction often says, “Of course this will work! Of course they will say yes. Of course this new product launch will be wanted by all!” Then, if it doesn’t go as planned and hoped for (my product release, my grant application, my concert pitch, etc.), I am continually surprised. I think this optimistic (or is it delusional!?) outlook serves me well.
I am about to pitch my multi-media concert idea to presenters, knowing full well that in my industry, it is common to get 90-95% rejections, or even worse, you might never get a response at all. Regardless, I follow full steam ahead, heart fully engaged, hopes held high, clearly knowing that these are my odds. If I were constantly shutting things down before they had a chance, there would be a 100% guarantee of failure, rather than a 90-95% chance of rejection. Somehow, the 5-10% success rate keeps me believing that I have a massive chance of achieving all that I strive for. As the band Journey likes to say, Don’t Stop Believing!
Music making teaches us
The pursuit of music mastery mirrors life in so many ways and instills wonderful inner strength building qualities. In all phases of music learning, we must constantly keep an open and curious mind. We have to have a love of learning and an appreciation for the process. Those who expect quick miracles and rapid improvement are usually disappointed. We must have patience for ourselves and patience for the process. We must trust and accept ourselves where we are. Each day that we work on mastering a skill, we improve bit by bit, or sometimes not at all. Some skills take months (or longer!) to master, until we finally feel like we have reached a new plateau. Over time, we are able to make huge strides with proper guidance and support.
In music, things don’t always go as planned. Performances might not always go as well as we dream they will. Learning new music or foreign skills might first involve feelings of frustration or disappointment while we try, fail, repeat, and finally succeed. Someone else, at some point, is bound to land the audition. We don’t always score high on our performance exam, or win first prize in the competition, or get chosen by that prestigious artist management company. Sometimes we will fall, but if that spark and the desire are there for what we want to achieve, we must always get up, and try, try again. Because when we finally achieve our little dreams and goals, it feels so sweet. Until, the next setback! Not to worry. It is all a part of the process of growing as a musician, and as a human being.
What’s your take on going out on a limb and putting yourself out there? What have you done recently that required bravery and perseverance?
How do you teach resiliency to your students?
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretsky