What are we to do when faced with challenges that seem insurmountable? Our human tendency is to either run away from the challenge completely, convince ourselves that the challenge is not valuable or reasonable, or we rationalize our shortcomings. It takes a strong person to admit their own limitations, and an even stronger one to work diligently, finding creative solutions that allow them to be successful in a given task. Our challenge in the UOSO is to perform the greatest music at the highest level. In our “classical” paradigm, a part of that means obtaining technical perfection. But is it really possible? Is it realistic? Is it a worthy goal? I think it is absolutely a worthy goal, but with an acceptance that it will never be fully realized. After all, all art forces us to search for the best efforts mankind can produce. But sometimes technical perfection just isn’t possible or realistic. We are all at different points of development in our skills as a musician, and some pieces require more than we can physically execute. In real life, a lot of orchestral music requires us to choose our battles. In my career as a professional orchestral performer, was I able to flawlessly execute every phrase in every piece, even on my best day? Of course not! There are too many variables at work. My approach was to “stack the deck” in my favor. Before the first rehearsal, I listened to the piece with my part in front of me so that I could determine a pecking order of what parts were essential, important, or supporting. This step takes the least amount of time and effort, but it is perhaps the most critical. I then practiced with that in mind. Essential music, were sections that exposed my instrument above all others. Mistakes would be easily heard and would detract from the ensemble as a whole. Important music was likely heard, but is shared with others that I could make accommodations for my own limitations. Supporting music was either accompanimental, gestural, or unable to be heard with any clarity. Most music lies in the important area. Here, the material is essential, but there may be shared responsibility. I would figure out what notes I could leave out in order to execute more important one or work out something with an assistant/stand partner. I encourage all of you to know the piece well enough to determine these issues of hierarchical importance and to work efficiently to contribute your unique talents to the orchestra, so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The music and the art is worth our finest efforts.
When things get tough