One of my resolutions for 2021 was to start writing publicly again. I've probably had a more consistent journal practice this past year than ever before but now my challenge is to share feelings publicly. As many of you now know, I didn't get the Fulbright to Spain and learned this the same day I made a public announcement about my departure from ComMUSICation the end of this school year. But when my friend told me "rejection is redirection," these words have really stuck with me. Probably because rejection has been such a common feeling as a musician, a non-societal-typical girl, and a non-married-in-her-30s woman in general. But as I look back on some of the biggest rejections, I remember how it was a redirection. Read on if you want to hear my story. Feel free to comment with your biggest redirections!
The first professional redirection I remember was in college when I was diagnosed with tendonitis. Try as I might, my piano teacher saw right through my schemes and told me he couldn't teach me if he was causing me pain. One of the humblest moments to this day was being in a beginner piano studio relearning how to play as a senior in college, but ya know what? I kept at it and a year later played a very advanced piece (Beethoven's Violin Sonata) pain-free.
Had it not been for that redirection, I may not have ever found my love for teaching and been able to do it without demonstrating. Starting as a college freshman, I had started a small business of accompanying/teaching piano, Z's Keys. As accompanying dwindled in possibilities of what I could physically play, I took on more teaching. Of course it was better than frying chicken fingers at the college cafe, but more so I actually loved it. I loved seeing my students' progress, and realized, even without playing to demonstrate as my previous teachers had done, that I was a good teacher. Unfortunately, the music ed advisor was horrible at the time so I had been turned off from pursuing that route (still the only W on my transcript!), nor did I ever want to be a classroom teacher. But that redirection was the reason that made me qualified to teach in Tanzania and eventually brought me into Sistema classrooms across the world. All of a sudden my physical limitation didn't matter because it wasn't about me, it was about me empowering others to discover their creative outlet/potential, and that was FAR more rewarding than playing for hours in a practice room ever was to me. As an extrovert, I struggled to practice for hours/day so this was actually a win-win solution!
My second memorable rejection was when my vocal audition for the "top" choir at our college (I'll refrain from names, but it depends who you ask at the time) bombed. My high range was shot and I was a senior so I knew that was my last chance! That rejection allowed me to study abroad and be in a choir where all voice colors were welcome, and that's what my soul needed. Not to be in a "perfect" choir, but to be in a community making excellent music-and that's what I did! I still despise auditions, afraid my name won't make a list, (it's happened many times) but I've also learned when I don't make it, I find other ways to make meaningful music in community and now am part of several auditioned choirs and project-based choir whose values align with me far more than any professional gig every could! I choose to make music, not to make a living, but to express myself and deliver a message to the world with an amazing community of like-minded people: singing at La Frontera (the border) in Tijuana/San Diego, making new songs with a trans-immigrant population in Tijuana, laughing until my stomach hurts IN REHEARSAL (not too many professional-sounding choirs can say that!), learning non-romance languages about women, these are the reasons I sing. These have certainly pushed me outside the comfortable box and also helped me realize the ways I CAN contribute to an ensemble, rather than focusing on those I struggle with. It's helped me find my musician identity rather than thinking I'm not a musician because I don't check x box. Going from a first soprano to a first/second alto was an identity shift to say the least, but I'm not sad about it one bit! I finally feel like I'm using my voice (previously deemed too chesty/manly) and singing is easy rather than a prescribed, cultivated voice that was brittle at best as a soprano after college.
Big statement I'm shifting toward: If someone doesn't want me and my whole self, mistakes and limitations included, I no longer want to make music with them. For that matter, if someone doesn't want me and my whole self for anything, I no longer want to invest in those relationships. I've been such a people pleaser to belong, to achieve, to prove I am worthy, and I no longer need that.
This new chapter isn't about achievements or names for a resume or anything externally pleasing, it's about redirection that is internally pleasing and honors my whole self, wellness at the top of that list. I am a hard worker, anyone who knows me will tell you that, but so often I have sacrificed work for a healthy meal, a rest, a dance class, a walk on a beautiful day, a jog with a friend, things that fill me up. You can't do hard work if you don't fill yourself up consistently. So I'm putting in the rocks of wellness/joy first and then filling up the metaphorical jar with the sand of working hard, rather than vice versa that I've been doing for so long.