That’s Why We Don’t Quit

Toward the end of last year, I attended Austin Civic Orchestra‘s concert. At the concert, there was a fundraiser – attendees could buy raffle tickets and the winners would get to sit on stage with the orchestra. Before the last song, the conductor drew five winning tickets. As the winners reached the stage, the conductor placed them, one by one, in seats throughout the orchestra – one surrounded by violins, another between brass players, etc.

“Hmm. Where is this going?” I thought.

After seating the winners, the conductor picked up the mic and said something to the following effect:

Most audience members never have the chance to experience what it feels like to play in an orchestra – to know what it feels like to be surrounded by sound, to be immersed with so much energy. It’s one thing to enjoy music from the audience, but to be on stage is an entirely different experience.

Whoa.

Upon hearing this, it seemed so obvious. Being on stage IS a completely different experience, but up until that point, I had never though about it from this perspective. It never even phased me. 

The concert was fantastic – the ACO played a few pieces I’ve either played or am familiar with, which made my connection with the music that much stronger. I was not familiar with one of the pieces, but I ended up really enjoying it. Why? Because the composer, Iannaccone, was at the concert and had given a pre-concert talk about the impetus behind his piece. Context is huge and having the opportunity to hear the composer talk so passionately about his music was a real treat.

Joining the ACO is actually something I’ve had on my mind for a number of years, but for one reason or another, have never auditioned. After attending this concert and realizing (once again) how much of a positive effect classical music has on my life (and the lives of others), I realized I was missing out and quite honestly doing myself a disservice by not playing with an orchestra.

In December, I emailed the conductor about auditioning. I heard back and found out auditions would be in 10 days. As in, I had just 10 days to learn an entire piece. And not “learn a piece” in a half-ass-sight-read-through-it-a-handful-of-times type way, but in a ready-for-an-audition type of way.

dont-Panic
*enter panic mode*

My head immediately flooded with the following: “There’s no way you can prepare a piece in ten days. You should have contacted her sooner so you could have had more time to prepare. Are you kidding? Even if you had known, you would have procrastinated. This is what you get for waiting! Welp, don’t even bother…maybe you can get your act together next year and try out. Wasn’t meant to be. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.”

 Whoa. Hold the phone. Time for a little reality check.

In my quest for heightened self-awareness, I’ve become hyper-aware of how incredibly critical we can be of ourselves. And how unaware we are of it. I myself wasn’t aware until I begin reading up on the topic, such as this really interested article and this really interesting book. (which ironically, or maybe not so ironically, was a required read prior to being allowed to join Camerata.)

I guess the point is, if positive dialog can affect rice, I think it’s safe to assume it can have an effect on people as well.

After “holding the phone” and “getting real” with myself, the following transpired:

“YOU. GOT. THIS. You know you’re good enough and you’ll be ready. What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t get in. That’s it. THAT’S. IT. Instead of thinking of it as *only* 10 days, think of it as 10 WHOLE DAYS! 10 EVENINGS!  You got this!!” 

…so I replied to the conductor, letting her know I’d see her on the 14th. Signed, sealed, delivered, BOOM.

It was an intense 10 days as I was traveling for work during the majority of the time. The days were full of work and long drives and the late evenings full of focused hotel room practices, but it felt good. Really really good.

…mostly, I kept reminding myself to feel thankful that violins aren’t too difficult to carry on planes and grateful to not play the cello or bass. 

Praise the lord for hotel mutes. Now if only they could make these for babies & drunkies...
Praise the lord for hotel mutes. Now if only they could make these for babies & drunkies…

I’ll be honest. I was SO NERVOUS at my first audition. You’d think that after having played 30,598,235 auditions over the years, I’d be ok with them, but alas…I’m not. While there are a number of factors that can be attributed to causing nerves, there is one factor that absolutely has a significant effect on me…

With something like an orchestra audition, you can put, say, 20 hours into a piece, but have just one shot, maybe 5 minutes, to prove yourself.  That’s it. This is significantly different from, for example, developing a website. If I put 20 hours into developing a website, the outcome is consistent and the end result will, 99% of the time, reflect those 20 hours of “behind the scenes” work.  

Basically, what I’m saying is that results of certain activities (auditions) are much higher crap shoots than others (web. dev.).

Those 10 days flew by and before I knew it, my audition was 15 minutes away and I was sitting in my car trying to get my focus on. My friend, Hilary, had sent me the following and I’ve always really liked it. I  read it over a few times before getting out of my car, attempting to convince myself that it was true. (:  It might sound silly, but I actually think it helped give me the confidence and focus I needed:

Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 10.08.21 AM

While I’m not outwardly competitive, I am, without a doubt, passively competitive. (Let’s make sure to not confuse this with “passive aggressive.” (:) I’ve always liked being the best, the fastest, the most accomplished. Call it overachiever status, call it a “typical” Jewish/first generation American mentality, or call it typical Kim Karalekas. (: 

Growing up, my orchestra teacher/mentor, Mr. Nelson, always said: “If you’re here to win, you’re here for the wrong reason. However, if you’re going to compete, compete to win.”  I’m not sure I was totally on board with this in high school (I think I just wanted to win), but as I’ve grown older, I’ve really taken his words to heart and try to live by them as best as I can.

I walked into the audition, tuned my violin and took a few deep breaths. Before playing the first note, the words “Play the sound you love to hear . . .” echoed through my head – another Mr. Nelson-ism.

I honestly don’t remember much of the audition. The first thing I can remember after finishing playing was the conductor saying she was pleased with my performance – intonation, pitch, tone, musicality, etc. – and asking me to prepare another piece and return for a second audition. 

“Yay! She didn’t say no! She liked my playing!” …followed by “Wait…another audition?? FML.” 

We decided on a new piece I was to prepare and I was on my way. As I was walking to my car, I felt a weird mix of emotions. I felt relief and accomplishment, but I also felt a sense of “here we go again.” Regardless, I told myself, “You’ve already made it this far, no turning back now.”

…I then proceeded to get insanely lost. What should have been a 25 minute drive evolved (or better – devolved) into an involuntary 1 1/2 hour tour de Austin. (:

I’ll spare you the play-by-play of my second audition as it was almost identical to the first: more work travel, lots of hotel room practice, lots of worrying and lots of trying to convince myself I was going to do an awesome job, followed by an audition I can’t remember.

The main different was that this time, I did not get lost on the way home.

The second audition was with an orchestral member. After I finished playing, he told me he would chat with the conductor and I would hear back in the next few days. GAH. Nerve wracking galore.

A few days later, an email from the conductor popped up. “OMG. Should I open it now? Should I wait? I wish I already knew what it said! Ahhhhhh!!” (Completely acceptable reaction for an adult, I think?)

I opened the email and found out…

I got in!!!

ptl

Man oh man…the anticipation! After reading the good word, I felt like a 20 pound brick had been lifted off my shoulders. A wave of emotion that honestly, I couldn’t even define, surged through my body. As I was attempting to process everything (slash, calm the eff down), this moment from Survivor popped into my head (Watch between 9:25 – 10:07):

In this clip, Marissa was fighting her way through a duel to remain in the game. The battle was intense and although she was ready to quit, she didn’t, ended up winning & remained in the game. Upon Jeff announcing her win, Gervase screamed, “THAT’S. WHY. WE. DON’T. QUIT.!!!”

…and all of a sudden, everything came full circle.

“That’s why we don’t quit.”