Over this last weekend I had an audition with the Fort Collins Symphony for their newly open principal flute position. I was looking forward to the opportunity to practice the audition process for orchestral gigs, because despite wanting and trying my best to win the audition I knew that I was guaranteed an enlightening experience, even if I didn’t win the job.
Performance for me has been a strange journey these last few years. When I was younger I was excited and willing to play for everyone, a precocious child with no uncertainty or shame, and with a passion for simply playing. I would play my flute for everyone, whether they wanted to hear it or not. But around high school and into my college years that gradually began to change. I still loved to play but something in my mind shifted from a concept of playing to one of practicing—rather then the freedom of play, I was confined to the strict standards of practice/homework. Although I understood that one needs to focus on the negative aspects of ones playing in order to progress, I missed the joy of simply playing my flute and learning new pieces. Something snapped within me in my sophomore year of college in a small performance for the woodwind studio—nerves I hadn’t felt before the performance sprung up in the midst of it and I lost control. My flute started shaking, my lips were quivering, and my breath control was nonexistent. This was the worst experience one can imagine, for not only did I sound bad and embarrass myself in front of my colleagues, but I completely lost all control over my body. That was the bad part. When you’re young you don’t think about being old, I never think about the possible day when I tell my body to do something and it can’t or won’t. But at that moment I was telling my body to stop shaking, to calm down, to keep going, and it refused. This was the moment of truth, and I have been shaking myself of its aftereffects since.
But on Saturday I made the trek to Fort Collins with a few friends of mine for an orchestral audition. My first “big-kid” audition, and I was surprisingly at ease. In the last six months my life has been going through a wide variety of changes: physically, mentally, emotionally, as well as interpersonally. All of these changes became very clear to me as I woke up Saturday morning and went through my morning stretching routine. I was cool, calm, and collected as I showered, dressed, ate, and hopped in the car. The weather was a definite help as well, the first beautiful sunny day in a long time enabled me to wear my skirt and top without a jacket. I realized that the baggage I had been carrying for the last few years may just be gone. However, I had been optimistic before and didn’t want to have these hopes dashed against a wall when I reached the audition, so I (un)wisely ignored these feelings and took off down the road.
Here’s an interesting revelation about myself: I get edgy, unhappy, and stressed out when I’m in one place for too long. Why is this factoid relevant? Well this trip was the first time since December that I left Laramie. It was the first time I got into my car and drove down the road for location X, and it felt good. Damn good. Perhaps this is why I put 80,000 miles on my car in three years—driving just feels right sometimes.
The most beautiful part of my Saturday was the audition itself. Despite the fact that the warm-up rooms were hot and so live that a note resonated in the air for five minutes after being played (note the hyperbole) whereas the audition room itself was completely dead (even the ceiling had carpet!), and despite the omnipresence of earlier winners from earlier rounds, obnoxious practicers, and blatant show-offs trying to get in your head, I played well in my audition. Not well enough to land the gig, but I’m not quite at the place just yet. However, I played in that audition just as well as I ever have in a practice room. Sure a few notes cracked from dry lips and the keys on my flute clicked and clacked like it was possessed, but my musicality, my tone, and my technique were my own. I was not overwhelmed by anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. I nailed it. This might not make sense to those of you who think that winning the job would have been “nailing” it, but sometimes it’s the experience that matters, not the performance.