One of my favorite books as an undergraduate was Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet (see it at https://www.amazon.com/Letters-Young-Rainer-Maria-Rilke/dp/0393310396). Check it out if you don’t already know this great book, a collection of letters in response to a poet seeking advice on work-life balance, self-doubt, and the struggle to find creative inspiration. In post-resolution-making-mode, I’m drafting one letter here to everyone. Thanks for indulging me!
Dear “High School Flutist” in All of Us,
So, you’re taking a college audition? How exciting - another opportunity to connect with others through music! We all face challenges each and every day – by living life, and not running from the risks of rejection or anything that stretches us, we grow. Being safe and comfortable, we stagnate. We all know this – but easier said than done, right? Trusting in one’s hard work and efforts takes practice, and performing under pressure requires the same. Spend time developing these skills in addition to your music fundamentals.
Having been a student since I was a toddler, like you and like most people, I am aware of the power of trust between student and teacher. Our families are typically our first teachers, helping us master simple steps forward in all aspects of life. Later on in classes and in lessons, this trust is a gift given to the student from the teacher, as well as to the teacher from the student. Appreciate opportunities to earn that cycle, and consider this when meeting with your prospective teachers.
Having been a teacher since I was in high school, I still remain a student. I recognize in music there is no perfect; I will never earn a “100%” on a performance or an audition. It’s the process of learning and trying and connecting, with ourselves and our listeners, that really teach us so much. Everyone has individual strengths and natural abilities. Some of life’s lessons, however, are more difficult to grasp – and are often the most transformative. If we turn around how we approach a test or playing challenge, we can find freedom. The panel’s priority is not looking for ways to eliminate you, but rather is seeking a beautifully turned phrase that inspires and transcends.
Having been a flutist for – oh, much longer than I care to admit – I’ve made my share of mistakes, literally and figuratively, but I have grown from these. Reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and make some adjustments; then look ahead, armed with this knowledge. Experience is often underappreciated, and rarely understood. We learn best by doing, not by being told or reading or watching (although these are helpful). Taking risks builds character…we find out what we’re made of when we’re outside our safe zone.
So with these ideas, I encourage you to trust in your hard work. Your audition is an opportunity to connect with others and to reflect a side of you which only music can express. You’ll be gaining experience, meeting people through music, and facing challenges head on. Way to go! You’re listening to your heart and facing challenges head on. Focus on your message rather than worrying about being liked, being good enough, or getting accepted.
Want an extra confidence boost?