Saturday, October 14, 2017

Keeping This Musician Humble

I've had some interesting experiences these last few weeks, and I'm left seeing how humility, courage, and hard work can bring about really great experiences. But even more, the people who encourage and cheer me on make it worth every sacrifice, humiliation, and mistake. Well, almost every mistake... (insert winky face, here).

Let me try to extract the details from my very muddled brain.

Back in August, my piano studio filled up pretty quickly. Right now I have 18 students (16 consistent), and I have really enjoyed teaching again. Also in August, I started a term as the Manhattan Area Music Teachers Association (MAMTA) secretary. (Basically, this means I take the minutes at our monthly meetings and make sure everyone has access to them.) I'm in charge of the Honors Recital in June, and I've been very involved in all of our events (District Auditions, State Auditions, Ensemble Concert, Duet Competition, Members Recital, Piano Fair, Music Progressions, etc.). I love this! I really like the teachers I am able to associate with, and it's great that my students can prepare for some really great events.

Well, a few weeks ago, one of my colleagues (also a dear friend in my ward) asked if I would take over the Piano 1 class at K-State for the next term (it's a non-major beginning piano course that includes students and community members). Long story short, I said I would, and so I have a piano class twice a week on campus! I just started teaching last week (my friend came to help me get started) and next week I'm on my own.

It's only a little bit scary.

Then, last week, my husband and I went to our community theater's production of Mary Poppins because one of my piano students (and her awesome father) were performing in it. It was great! They have a really good theater, here. Live orchestra, great dancing, and fantastic singing and acting. Turns out, several friends were involved in the production, including both of the pianists in the orchestra!

On Tuesday of this past week, one of those pianists asked if I would substitute for her in the orchestra for tonight (Saturday). I said, "yes," not really knowing what I was in for!

Oh, dear reader, it was so much fun, but it was so very, very difficult! I missed so many cues and parts --I got lost a lot. I was able to do some of it well, and I did a great job with finding the last note on most pieces! Ha! But wow, it was very humbling. I didn't have much time to practice, and as a pianist, I'm honestly not used to so many measures of rest! When I accompany a choir or soloist, I don't have measures of rest, and if I do, I can see exactly what the singers are singing, so I never get lost. But wow --I sure got lost, tonight!

So, that was the humility (humiliating?) portion of my thoughts, tonight. I'm not as confident, skilled, or as great as I want to be. Honestly, not really even close!

But I do practice, and I work hard.

I've worked hard to build my studio and take the opportunities to use my music as it comes (like the class, like the orchestra), and I am practicing a lot more. There's so much more I need to work on, but I'm doing more than I have in a very long time.

Also, I feel like I have more courage. I don't feel like I am nearly as good as the other teachers in MAMTA, but I realize that I'm not horrible, either. It's hard for me to put myself out there and claim that I can do some of the things that they do! They have degrees I do not have and experiences that I do not share (yet!).

And this brings me to the biggest revelation of the past few weeks: Manhattan, KS has a monopoly on some of the kindest people I have ever met. My MAMTA colleagues treat me like an equal and they just believe I'm a great pianist. They don't care if I'm better or worse than they are --we're all equals. Even the K-State professors! They are generous and kind with all of us. There is no elitism (that I can feel) among us.

My friend who asked me to take her class --she has absolutely all the confidence in the world that I can teach it! Not only that, but she and I do an exchange with our children (I teach some of hers and she teaches some of mine), and knowing that she trusts me to teach her kids the piano... gosh, that kind of trust is very telling, you know?

The orchestra at the play tonight --I felt the same encouragement and kindness from all of them, too! They cheered me on, helped me find the right measures, helped me find my cues, and the director was so kind to me. They could have all been disappointed in my performance (and they could have been --I know I was!), but they told me that I did just fine. They knew I was coming in cold without orchestra rehearsals! They offered me food, they offered me beer (LOL), and they were all just so very, very kind. The other pianist --who happens to be a MAMTA colleague --took 2 hours out of her day, today, to go over as much of the score with me as possible, and just made me feel so good about myself, too.

And the thing is, I know I didn't do as well as I could have, but I didn't feel anyone was patronizing me, either. They were simply kind!

Then there's my handsome husband. Dear reader, he is my biggest cheerleader! When he found out I was asked to teach the class, he was so thrilled! When he saw me put on our shared calendar (on my phone --he can see what I put on it and vice versa immediately via notification) that I was going to accompany Mary Poppins, he texted me right away to congratulate me (like, seriously, super excited) before I had a chance to tell him about it! Tonight, during intermission, when I texted to tell him how badly I was doing, he told me that he was positive I didn't do as badly as I thought I did.

And that's why I think I can keep doing this. This = make music my career, again. Keep improving. Continue preparing for more schooling. I have support around me and people that believe in me, and this feels like such a gift, because there are so many times when I feel like I can't believe in myself.

Do you remember the scripture found in Ether 12:27? It says:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
I honestly believe that my humility (and various humiliations) as a musician helps me become a better musician. Each mistake teaches me something, but even more, I think every moment of frustratingly humiliating reflection means I will be kinder to others in the same situation.

I'm starting to realize that most of our experiences are meant to be taken and used to help other people. But that's going to have to wait for another blog post!

How have humiliating experiences made you stronger? How does having your own support system make hard things easier for you? Have you ever had to have courage in the face of something that inevitably keeps you consistently humble? 

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