My Entire Flute Career
My flute career ended when I picked up my flute and poised it at my lips, ready for a flute test. I was shaking, making it hard to keep my fingers on the keys.Everyone in the room seemed to know that I was terrible at the flute, and I couldn’t help to think that their encouraging smiles were mocking. I hated the flute with a burning passion, or perhaps I just hated the idea of not being the best.
“Go,” my teacher said with a tap of the baton on my music stand. I played the first few notes smoothly, but my fingers trembled and were unable to press the right key formation in time and I missed several notes. Frustration rose to my cheeks, I looked up at the teacher, calmly put my flute down, and my composure fell. My eyes teared up as they did whenever I got frustrated. I could imagine my parent’s disappointment and the looks they would send my way. Meanwhile, my teacher had pursed his lips and given me a zero.
As I walked home I pondered every excuse I could think of for the overall B in flute class. My teacher was rude. The test was too hard. I had a sore throat. Anything.
I burst through the front door and excuses exploded from my mouth, “I failed my flute test because it was too hard, and he is exceptionally rude and no one else in the class passed either and now I end with a B!”
“I don’t really care about flute, as long as you learned something it’s fine,” my mother stated calmly from her desk. I began to realize the pattern — my parents were never the ones applying pressure. As long as I learned something, it was okay.I continued the class for the rest of the year, but, by the end of the year, I had given it up. Effectively ending my flute career.
It took me years to realize that this failure was the result of my inability to accept a flaw — a perfectionist streak. Combined with pressure on my shoulders that I seemed to have materialized out of thin air, it was a recipe for failure.
It took me about the same amount of time to realize I missed music, and while my rented flute was gone, I still had an old keyboard in my basement. It had spindly legs with dust all over the keys and sandwiched between the slats. It would occasionally give a hum or screech until I smacked it with my palm to get it going.
I started with teaching myself the scales, then moved on to simple songs. I could read music well enough that I could pick up a sheet of music and slowly sight-read it, tapping out the keys to form a melody. I would practice it until it was fairly fluent.
I sat in front of the keyboard as my fingers danced across the keys. I played the ‘complex symphony’, “Yankee Doodle” — my first double handed song. I missed a few notes, but it didn’t bother me. I had time to improve myself. Teaching myself piano has taught me how to teach myself something, and how to prevent frustration. This opened a door. The curiosity that every young child possesses was rebirthed, and I finally understood that I could learn for the sake of learning. I could even teach myself if I had to. I was no longer frustrated with imperfections. Acceptance of these helps me self improve, identifying what I could change to make myself better.