A year or two ago, I would have been hesitant to say that I would be playing paid gigs again. I was once one of the first people contacted in my area when someone needed a horn player, but after all of my troubles, I stopped getting calls. I think I have played maybe three paid gigs over the past two years. I was asked to do more, but I had to turn them down. At the time, I wasn’t playing well at all, and I was tired of the humiliation, or rather, feeling humiliated.
This past Sunday, I played in an orchestra at one of the big churches in Augusta, GA. It’s a church that I played for quite regularly before, and I was actually surprised when they asked me to play again. The music was typical of church music for brass, high and loud, but it was a lot of fun to play. I felt confident, and I also received quite a few compliments from the other musicians. After struggling for so long, it felt really good to receive sincere affirmation. Not the typical, “Well, you sound like you’re getting better, but…(you still suck),” type compliments.
No matter how humble, I think at some point we all need that recognition of our hard work. I don’t enjoy being in the spotlight, but it does feel good when someone gives me a compliment. I’ve been very dedicated, and I’m not planning on giving up if I have a disastrous performance or anything, but I needed those compliments this past weekend. It not only gave me a push to keep working, but it also gave me a little more confidence in myself, which is something that I haven’t felt in a long time. After hearing some of the compliments, I noticed that my anxiety levels lessened, and I even started to play better and more confidently. It was just a very good feeling.
I’m not trying to get ahead of myself, because I know that I haven’t been miraculously cured, but I can feel that I’m making strides in the correct direction. Things are getting easier, and I’m also enjoying myself a lot more, which is the ultimate goal. Music has to become fun again. I don’t want to just get paid, I want to enjoy myself and be able to appreciate this gift. If playing gigs becomes too much again, then maybe I’ll have to back off some, but for now, I feel comfortable taking gigs.
None of this would be possible if not for my unwavering work ethic. I have put in a lot of hours and spent a lot of time practicing “boring” fundamentals, but it has paid off so far. It seems that deliberate and efficient practice is the best (maybe only) way to overcome anxiety or a playing issue, whether it be injury related or not. I feel more confident and a big reason for this change is the fact that I’m putting in the right kind of work during my practice sessions. I may not be practicing as much as I should, but I’m being more consistent about practicing every day. I’m also trying to incorporate the most beneficial exercises and etudes to match my current needs. Here is a short list of exercises that I will play through on a daily basis: Breath Attacks/Long Tones at soft dynamics, Lip Trill exercises for about 10 minutes, Lip Slurs both full-range and isolated ranges, SCALES in all different patterns (I’m even practicing stuff from the Arban and Pares Scales books), Low Horn with Melodious Etudes for Trombone by Rochut, plus many other etude books that I rotate through. If anyone wants or needs specifics, feel free to contact.
There is hope, but you definitely have to be willing to put forth the effort.