Friday, September 9, 2011

Frustration and Affirmation

I am a real working person with a job.  A few jobs, actually.

I got scared from writing in this blog because I'd had it reserved for my intrapersonal intellectual battles.  They've been there, but writing them down is a pain.  And thinking all of my thoughts all the way through. What's the point? I thought.  I'm not a student anymore. I don't need to think about everything anymore.

That's stupid, though. Just because another person doesn't offer me a grade or a job for my thoughts doesn't mean I can't still have them.  Just because I'm no longer a music student doesn't mean I shouldn't practice. Just because there's a possibility that nobody could ever read these words and respond back, doesn't mean I shouldn't record them.  So there.

Here is my situation.

I got my teaching credential.  I did not get a full time teaching job, because music ones don't really exist. I did everything to the best of my ability to get my dream job in the area I'm in.  I did not even get an interview. (Why would I? They will not give a full-time music teaching job to someone who hasn't spent a considerable amount of time in the "hot seat" of having a preliminary teaching credential and not being able to make it permanent because they haven't had a consistent enough situation yet.)

So I got some other jobs. Which I wasn't too excited about, because it wasn't one place with my own space and my own control over my destiny.  I don't get to do that yet because I am a kid who has friends and doesn't really want to move somewhere new and make new friends. No offense to most of the world, but only a few people get to really be my friend. They are the people that get me. I get along just fine with almost everyone.  I am a very pleasant person. But most people don't take the time to really get me, and get the fact most of my interactions with others only scratch the surface of my person.  (Hence the name of this blog, really.  I cannot really be friends with a person who doesn't expend the energy to interact with me one-on-one.)

So I want to keep the friends I have close to me, because it is hard to make new friends when you're young and single and don't have children.

I have two jobs with somewhat regular hours.  One of them is teaching music at a k-8 school, for three hours, two days a week after school.  That's pretty neat, except that the school is a 45 minute commute from where I live.  The school is gorgeous, though. And the principal hired me on the spot. No resume. No cover letter. No letters of recommendation.  After working so hard at that other job application, I couldn't believe my luck that I just fell into that.

My other job is at the local college. (I haven't figured out yet if I want to keep my location here private, because it's a pretty distinctive location.  I guess I will just say I'm on the west coast and I'm somewhat rural.) I'm a lecturer, but don't let that position title fool you.  I'm the instructor of the marching band, in charge of all class aspects of the group.  Most of my job happens outside of rehearsal.  I run around from department to department, getting other people to sign this and approve of that, and take care of money, and eventually give people grades.  In rehearsal, I don't do much.  I occasionally tell people to play music better and listen to people complain to me with no intention of asking me to do anything to remedy their problems.

It's an okay job.  It's challenging because I used to be heavily involved with the group as a student, then disappeared for about three years, and am now coming back needing to get used to a whole new group of people, and know what's going on socially without really being involved.  It's also challenging because outside of rehearsals, which I don't even have to go to, I don't have regular hours.  It's supposedly 20% employment, and yet I end up going to campus on most days. I get things done on my list and find more things to do.

Somewhere along the way I ended up being in the right (or wrong) place during the music department's symphonic band rehearsal, and my friend, a fellow clarinetist, who graduated and is heading off to grad school in two weeks, found me sitting and talking to someone I knew between errands.  She told me there weren't enough clarinets in the band, just her and one freshman.  So, I joined.

And here we get into the meat of my day today.  (Sorry that took so long.)  I got to symphonic band rehearsal eventually, after having a money meeting for my job.  Symphonic band has been frustrating for me for several reasons.  One reason is that I haven't been playing my own clarinet.  I stupidly left it at the camp I worked at in the summer.  My clarinet isn't great, but my mouthpiece is.  I also had some pretty nice reeds and reed-carving tools in that case.  So playing on a school horn has been frustrating because the sound quality I'm producing is inferior to what I can make on my own setup.  Another frustrating thing on my own part is that, because I have to play the instrument differently to make an "okay" sound, my technique has really been suffering and I can't simply blow through technically challenging passages.  I get hung up on different registers and certain notes pop out that I've smoothed over on my own instrument.  Plus, I don't have the endurance I used to have after focusing mainly on brass last year.

The other frustrating aspects of playing in that group are external.  The conductor, with whom I bonded a lot last year after being the only music credential candidate (and him being in charge of music education), is in his first semester of directing this group after two and a half years of someone else (actually my current supervisor--it's a small school) leading the group.  And, while I've gained a lot from him as an educator, it's been awhile since I've had him as a conductor in that situation.  Maybe I'll go into more detail later, but he is not good.  And the group is young.  So this use of my time is not terribly musically fulfilling.  Frustrating indeed, but I have dues to pay apparently.

My friend asked me to pick up her baritone so I could bring it to the brass band rehearsal later that evening.  I've been playing in the local brass band for the past two years.  This group is also affiliated with the university, but a big fraction of the players are from the community (including me, now).  I've been playing 1st cornet.  Because our rehearsal was off campus today (starting with a performance), I had to bring that instrument home with me as well.  I live about a block away from campus, but it was incredibly strenuous to walk home with a cornet, a baritone, and a bag that must have weighed upwards of 20 pounds on my shoulder.

I got to rehearsal and found out that the flugelhorn player would not be there, and that I would be playing that part for the performance and rehearsal.  I had no problem with that.  I've been playing 1st cornet parts for two years, but it was always kind of a drag because 4 people play 1st and I was always last-first.  I only had my cornet there, and the repiano player who had a horn for me to play was running late.

And then we got to playing.  One of the pieces started with a flugelhorn solo I didn't know was a solo.  My conscious brain jumped about a mile as the music poured out on its own.  It felt so easy after struggling so much in the other group.

And then the flugelhorn arrived.  It was a gorgeous satin-finished Getzen.  Playing that instrument was like playing silk.  I felt at home, in hearing the sound and in the feeling of playing the horn.  My consciousness was all over the place.  My shoulders and arms were tired from carrying so much stuff earlier and it was hard to hold the instrument up.  I worried about intonation because the valve slides didn't have a way to move while playing.  But all I had to do was vaguely think about the sound I wanted, and the instrument made it happen.  And I remembered what my life was all about.

And here is the part where we come back to the idea of external motivation, or influence, or affirmation.  Just because about 7 people came up to me after and told me I should always play flugelhorn, does that mean it was meant to be?  It sure felt good to sound how I sounded.  And to finally have an opportunity to be expressive in a group like that, instead of having to share a part with 3 other people and never get any solos.  I felt like every musical due I'd ever paid had finally bought me a chance to show the group, the conductor, and anyone who was listening what I was all about as a musician.

The conductor came up to me after and told me I had to play those solos in the concert.  "Sometimes it just happens to be that one person is so right for a part and finally gets a chance to show it," he said, "And the other person misses out because they weren't here."  The other person has been playing flugel in the band for years and years.  

The conductor took the flugel and repiano folders back with him.  He really doesn't know what to do about parts and instruments.  I hope I get to play flugel in the band, though.  Suddenly my life feels like it's going somewhere again.  I have a place that can fulfill my musical needs, a platform on which I can use my own musical voice to contribute to the whole message of the music.  It feels amazing.  Silly as it is that such a small thing can change my entire state of being. But that's how it goes.