From Music To Life: A #LessonLearned by Christian Emmett
I love Christian Emmett’s blog Adventures and Insights because he is Australian and many of the things he shows me, I haven’t seen before. Plus when I read his posts, I hear them in an accent that sounds incredibly sexy. When I’m wearing six layers of clothing here in Rochester, I like knowing that it is summer Down-Under.
Christian writes with heartbreaking sincerity. Whether he is writing about Christmas remembrances or favorite bands or old lovers, I admire this about him. Please read one of his most wonderful pieces “Something Needs To Be Undone.” And follow him on Twitter at @ChristianEmmett.
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A Lesson From Music To Life
When I started high school, coincidence had Mrs. Smith change teaching jobs. She had been my music teacher during primary school and when I showed up for my first music class in 1989 I was greeted by the very same woman who taught me to sing “Day-O” and had our concert band watch “An American Tail” so that we could better play the song “Somewhere Out There”. Naturally I was a little surprised to see her but at the same time there was a measure of comfort in having a familiar face in a new environment.
In addition to being our music teacher, Mrs. Smith also assisted with the school bands. She had a real love for music, something that she tried to pass on to all her students. Her passion for music was balanced with a no-nonsense attitude, which made her a brilliant teacher – at least in my mind.
In high school, I was introduced to the tenor saxophone and became part of the concert band. The majority of my time was spent playing support to our talented altos, and I didn’t mind it at all. It meant that I could afford to be a little lax with my practice because all I really had to do was perform simple, fluid combinations of notes that were never designed to be heard above the other instruments.
The band played concerts and eisteddfods, competitions were won and lost and all the while I continued to cruise through the whole experience. Much like life, however, the concert band can be an unpredictable creature and there came a time when I faced a significant challenge. One of the songs that had been chosen for the band was “Wipeout” by the Surfaris and I was to play the most important part.
I took the music home and proceeded to completely freak out. I practiced as best I could but knew I needed more before I could do justice to the tune and the band.
When we started practice the next week, things began well enough. We played through our opening pieces successfully and I felt somewhat ready for a run-through of our signature tune. Of course, when life wants to test you it never does half a job. I may have been ok if I had been able to remain seated like everyone else. Instead, our conductor told me to stand up so that I could best perform my solo through better posture.
Nerves overwhelmed me. I stood up as the band began to play. I took the mouthpiece between my now parched lips and began to blow. Stricken with panic, my fingers spasmed over keys as the sound of a dying goose emanated from the bell of the instrument. Things went from bad to worse as I struggled through my solo and as the conductor called the band to a halt, I gave in to embarrassment as decided to quit the band.
It was at this moment that Mrs. Smith stepped in. We took a short recess and she guided me outside. She asked me about my practicing and I sputtered out that I had practiced but I couldn’t do it. I told her that I was no good and that I wanted to quit the band. They would be able to find someone to replace me easily enough.
For the look I got from her, she may as well have slapped me across the face. Mrs. Smith shook her head and spoke simply, her calm voice reeling in my sense of failure and replacing it with some common sense and compassion. I had always pressured myself to be the best and on occasions where I was put on the spot I always faltered. Mrs. Smith told me that all I needed to do was keep practicing. To relax, try again and not to worry about what everyone else was doing or thinking.
I did just that. I practiced that piece until I could almost do it blindfolded. We rocked the Eisteddfod that year.
I never took the time to thank Mrs. Smith for her support in that crucial moment, but I walked away from the experience armed with the knowledge that even though I will occasionally fail – it’s okay.