Lately, I've come across a lot of articles and blog posts about how to win auditions, how to land a job, how to be happy with your practicing, etc... While these article are meant to be encouraging, I view them through my trademark lens of cynicism. These types of articles, time and time again, tell you that practicing and listening to recordings and having a good reed and being hyper professional and reminding yourself of your strengths in times of sorrow will eventually lead to a job.
But you know what?
Maybe it won't. Actually, it probably won't.
During my academic and professional career, it has been engrained in to my psyche that hard work and determination will eventually pay off. Getting advanced degrees will lead to full time university employment. Making 30 reeds a week would perfect my reed making technique to a precise science. Completing the Milde or Weissenborn or Orefici or Oubradous would mean I could do anything, that I'd be invincible. Anything less than that meant I was a failure.
So, what did all of that lead to? Some of it paid off and some of it didn't. I've been very fortunate to perform and make money doing so, including a long term stint with The Redlands Symphony and substitute opportunities with the Las Vegas Philharmonic. I've also been very fortunate to see the other side of the arts business in my administrative roles. I have a substantial amount of teaching experience at every grade level, including college, and am very lucky to have that under my belt.
But then again, I'm still baffled by reed making. I don't really understand much about performance practice before the Classical period. My knowledge of non-bassoon repertoire is narrow and I have a very focused agenda when it comes to analysis and interpretation. I have failed at a lot of things and there comes a point where too much becomes too much.
If you've failed in your life at anything--making a reed, playing an error free performance, riding a bicycle, whatever--your natural reaction was probably one of frustration and despair. Something I try to embrace is this mantra which I have as the backdrop on my phone:
"The Most We Can Do Is Our Very Best"
But if you're doing your best, and you feel like your best isn't good enough, you may want to give up. That's how I felt all through my undergrad and my Master's degree. "I'll never be as good as..." or "If only I could just....then I'd be happy," were thoughts that constantly flooded my head.