The Beginning

“And so each venture is a new beginning,
a raid on the inarticulate.”
T.S. Eliot

It’s tough to remember where we started, and sometimes it’s essential that we let it go. Nostalgia is overrated and is mostly revisionist history anyway. But there had to be some unavoidable truth embedded in the decision to make music such a big part of our lives. We must remember why we chose this path and bring that early clarity with us.

The beginning was exciting and adrenaline-filled, and we mounted Eliot’s raid on the inarticulate with enthusiasm and optimism. Little did we know that grunt work, criticism, setbacks and unpleasant surprises would conspire to derail us.  It’s all part of becoming an “adult”, but it can wreak unnecessary havoc with people whose life work demands that they stay in touch with all of the best things about being a child.

“In the greatest confusion there is still an open channel to the soul.
It may be difficult to find because by mid-life it is overgrown…
But the channel is always there, and it is our business to keep it open,
to have access to the deepest part of ourselves.”
Saul Bellow

The world, and particularly 21st-century American culture (as truly marvelous as it is in so many other ways…), will do its damnedest to convince us that it’s not necessary to doggedly clear the weeds out of this channel to the soul. But we believe this at our peril, both individually and collectively. Oh sure, there are some performers and artists who make careers as talented trained monkeys – who do something unusual and specific enough that it doesn’t matter how much depth they have. But if you are a mere mortal, and you don’t have access to the core of your being, the machine will eat you up and spit you out.

One of the parts of that machine is the audition experience. It doesn’t have to be soul-sucking, but it certainly has that potential. This fall, you’ll go through the important and specific motions of the audition game. Some of you will adapt and thrive, and others will never make peace with it. No matter. Because that’s not the point.

The point is to prepare honestly for the process, stay in touch with yourself while you navigate it, and accept the outcome as only one tiny chapter.

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening
that is translated through you into action,
and there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique, and if you block it,
it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost.
The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is,
not how it compares with other expression.
It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly,
to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open.

No artist is pleased.
There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.
There is on a queer, divine dissatisfaction,
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes us more alive than the others.”

Martha Graham

Tomorrow: Being Ready.


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