Playoff baseball teaches lessons in performance
Now that it's October, when the fancies of many Americans - including yours truly - turn to the baseball playoffs, I thought it would be appropriate to share a brief thought on what musicians (and teachers, and audiences!) can learn from professional athletes.
My Kansas City Royals just swept into the ALCS over the team with the best record in Major League Baseball in the regular season, the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim). In musical terms, this is something like a regional symphony orchestra outdueling the New York Philharmonic in a three-concert "play"off.
There are two rather abstract things that I'd like to mention here, out of many, many thoughts that I hope to explore in-depth in the future. First, we are all human. Nobody is immune to making mistakes, and particularly under high-pressure situations. In the ridiculously competitive environment of the music world, we often forget this. We'll dismiss a performer in a competition for a few wrong notes, or throw out a job candidate for any perceived shortcoming in her paperwork. In baseball, the best players fail seven out of ten times. That doesn't make the game any less beautiful. If the players were androids, perfectly predictable, it would remove all the "music" from the game.
This leads to the second point, which is that we all need to relax and remember what we're here for. We are here to "incarnate beauty," to bring joy, comfort and refuge to the world amidst the chaos (literal or figurative) outside. We should rejoice in every moving performance, in every opportunity to experience music, in meeting every new person along our journey. The more people we take time to interact with, the more we can learn - and if we listen, we'll be better individuals for it.
Being a professional musician can be frustrating, unfair, and lead to a life of depression and anxiety...or it can change us and the world around us, if we stop getting in the way of the music by beating ourselves up or tearing other people down. Be patient. Enjoy the process. Take pride in your accomplishments and your opportunities. Train your instincts, then trust them. Every day, add a little brightness to your community. You may just find yourself, like the Royals have in the last few weeks, bringing joy and fulfillment to more people than you ever thought possible.