• I am only Unreasonably Persistent •
For 2018, I’d like to start a blog about all things flute, my life as an adjunct professor, and trying to find my way to a full-time position in higher education. It’s a conversation that my friends and colleagues have frequently, and I thought it might also be helpful for others. Or maybe amusing for others? Hopefully, a little of both.
Lately, my mind has been dwelling on confidence in my own decision-making skills. How did I get to this point in my life? I have a DMA and adjunct work in music in higher education, I’m performing at Carnegie hall this March and this has always been my goal, but how did I get myself to this point? What can I tell my students about perseverance and grit based on my own experience? After a few weeks of thought, I think it boils down to being unreasonably persistent.
Let me tell you an abbreviated version of my story so you can understand what I mean when I say stubborn confidence. I entered my undergraduate years as a Flute Performance major. Prior to this, my high school band director had told me that being a performance major would mean that I end up homeless. I stubbornly ignored his warnings.
During my freshman year, I went skiing and had a particularly nasty fall, injuring my neck. It took three years to figure out that I had pinched a nerve and in the meantime, I had to stop playing the flute almost completely. I changed my major to history but took nearly every music course that my school offered. I was told by a prominent flutist that I should give up on having a career in flute and find some other job. I believed this person and went and found a job. For four years, I worked full-time at jobs that I hated. I was bored, depressed, and angry. I finally decided that I had to try my hardest to find work as a flutist and returned to school and earned a Masters and Doctoral degree in flute performance.
I’ll provide more details about those experiences in later posts, but in general, I attribute the fact that I’m still in this classical music business to unreasonable persistence. It seemed that actions happening in my life were telling me to leave classical music behind. I should have found a different career and kept flute as my hobby. But, I couldn’t. I was MISERABLE. Despite the logical voice saying, “You’ve been injured. You can’t make this kind of life work with a neck injury,” I couldn’t let it go. That unreasonable persistence has made all the difference.
I recently had a conversation with one of my students about the difficulties of being a classical musician in the gig economy. I likened it to Macro and Micro confidence. In the micro, you’re going to have bad days. You’ll make mistakes on public performances, you’ll have bad lessons, you’re going to experience setbacks and that is ok. Those things are in the micro, they happen in a day, but do not affect your long-term goals. So long as you are unreasonably persistent in the Macro, you can get through the micro setbacks. That isn’t to say that you won’t have days where you feel awful and want to pack it in and give up. You’ll have those days, and it is OK. Feel your feelings. Cry. Eat a pint or two of ice cream. Whatever you need to do to let those emotions out. Then get some sleep. When you wake up in the morning, get back to work in that practice room.
I listen to The Nerdist with Chris Hardwick podcast every week and recently heard an interview with comedian, Louie Anderson. They described trying to be a successful comedian as waiting in line for a ride at Disneyland. So long as you stay in line, you’ll eventually make it to the ride (your goals), but if you get out of line, you can’t get back in line later at the same spot. You’ll have to go to the back of the line and start over. So, if being a musician is something you just have to do, stay in line. You’ll reach your goals so long as you just stay in line. Be unreasonably persistent.
The next blog will talk about why staying in line is an action and what we as musicians can do to work towards our goal of getting on that ride. Stay tuned!