The great Christine Brewer presented a wonderful master class at The Hartt School on Tuesday. She included some thoughts about her college days with the many insights offered during the afternoon.
Ms. Brewer attended a very small college, where she played the violin! She participated in many groups. Along the way, one professor (who taught many classes and directed several groups) told her that maybe she should take voice lessons.
She went on to say that she had a tiny voice. No one could hear her. And because of that, she was always picked last.
That resonated with me in a few ways.
My first thought was that, in seventh grade, the same thing happened to me. I played flute, piano, and organ. During that summer, I attended music camp at the University of Iowa for the first time, playing flute in the band.
We were required to audition for seating within each section. I had no idea how to audition, so I just showed up, no doubt playing very badly. I was thrilled when they read my name third!
And then I realized that there were 50 flutes, and I was walking to the back row of the section.
It worked out. That summer, I studied with a professional flutist, a huge step up. The following summer, I was seated in the front row.
Piano has always been my best instrument. The music camp experience provided direction for my future.
Another thought that came to mind was the commentary I have read concerning competitions. There is usually only one winner. A small number of other competitors finish second, third, and in the honorable mention category.
Reality check: when someone enters a competition, s/he may not truly be ready for a major career at that moment. Concert Artists Guild mentors its competition winners for that reason.
Some of the interviews, articles, and blogs written about coming in second or third say that people who finish below first actually have a better chance of sustaining their careers than the first-place winners.
Something to think about.