A multi-state traveling, road warrior trombone buddy, Wes Lebo, posted a status update following a recent orchestral audition that started with the following sentence:
"Well guided hard work is never wasted, and dreams are not an instant gratification."
I couldn't agree more. I'm posting today because I know that many of you out there feel alone on your journey. It is easy to feel alone, because music is such a deep and personal journey. At the end of the day, while we collaborate with others and network like there is no tomorrow, you are the one who has to navigate that journey through the complicated series of decisions you must make each day. Whatever your struggle, please know that you're not alone. You're never alone.
I make no secret about the fact that I was a BAD undergraduate student. If 18 year old me studied with 36 year old me here at Arkansas State, I would probably have dismissed 18 year old me from the studio by mid October. I had no direction, and what made it worse was that when confronted with my shortcomings, I was combative and stuffed full of excuses. A couple of great teachers showed me grace - giving me what I didn't deserve - and I eventually found my way, however....
The journey from then to now was wrought with wrong turns, failed relationships, periods of financial instability, and more than my fair share of growing pains. There were times when I just wanted to walk away from music and be done, but any other career I would have chosen would only have served as a diversion. My heart would have stayed with music, and the resulting bitterness over not seeing this through to fruition would make any hardship along this path pale in comparison.
So, what does "seeing this through to fruition" really look like?
#1 - I wanted to be financially stable. This is a given - money isn't the most important thing, but it sure makes the other parts of life easier to focus on!
#2 - I wanted to finish my doctorate. It might seem silly, but I felt that if I could complete both graduate degrees in a reasonable amount of time, I would experience some form of retribution for the extra time it took to complete my bachelor's degree. While it was important for me to follow through and finish what I started, it was most important to make major breakthroughs along the way.
#3 - I wanted to find my place. Teaching college is so much fun, and if I had given up along the way, I wouldn't be doing this. Was I patient? Rarely. Was the grass always greener somewhere else? Absolutely. Did I fall victim to negative self talk and pity? Without a doubt. But because I am stubborn, I seem to be given the same lesson to learn over and over and over: be patient.
- My future will unfold only as fast as it needs to, and I will rarely understand until I have the benefit of hindsight. Be patient.
- Chances are, if an opportunity doesn't come my way, it's because I still have work to do. Furthermore, there is always more work to do. Be patient.
- You will be jealous of others who work hard and earn amazing opportunities, even when your ego tries to convince you otherwise. Be patient - you'll get your turn.
- This will mean trial by fire. Your convictions will be tested, and either broken or strengthened. Be patient.
- Learn to ask for help. Find people who are doing what you want to do, and emulate them. It won't always be easy, but you'll find your own rhythm. Be patient.
I have incredible students and colleagues. I get to share my "playbook of blunders" with my students, and if I am compelling enough, they will learn a few things from the mistakes I made. I believe that everything I have experienced in life has prepared me for this work, and that I am uniquely suited to this task. I would be miserable if I had quit along the way!
If I can ever be of any help, please contact me and let me know!