My feelings toward music have constantly wavered since I started playing years ago. Piano became a sort of obligation, and as for the cello, my dedication and energy to play came in waves. At the beginning of last month it was ebbing low, and, reaching a high level of frustration with myself, I decided to put myself on a 3 week music challenge (3 weeks being the amount of time it takes to establish a new habit). I determined to practice at least an hour a day, study music theory and complete ear training every day.
Three hours later, after a wonderful rehearsal, I was approached by a young woman in the train station. This young woman happened to be looking for a female cellist for her dance company’s upcoming show. It required improvising, something that I have not done even once in my life, coming from a strictly classical background. I immediately started to nervously decline when my friend reminded me I was performing the next day at our Buddhist meeting, and I, in a state of shock and nerves, invited this young woman to come…and she did…and this brief and seemingly chance encounter has changed my life beyond belief.
I knew that, terrified as I was of improvising music and performing, I absolutely had to at least attend a rehearsal with these girls once I read the company’s mission, one of understanding the power of humanity and the ever present ability and capacity to change. The concept of the show I’d potentially be performing for was even more profound: women and the secrets they live with.
After almost simultaneously throwing up and passing out (I know that’s not physically possible, but that’s legit how scared I was) before leaving for my first rehearsal, I made it to rehearsal, and even though I just messed around with the same seven notes, was so proud of myself. I went to the second rehearsal, not necessarily convinced I’d play in the show, but by the end of that rehearsal it kind of seemed that I would be, having invested myself in two rehearsals.
Then another obstacle arose…or, really, a chance to back away from the fear and stress that was gnawing away at me with the thought of performing in this show. I almost didn’t perform due to a prior obligation in conflict with the dress rehearsal, and at that point I was so insecure about my ability to do the show that I kind of threw my hands in the air, and told myself whatever happens, happens. I’d be cool playing in the show, but if I don’t it’s ok, I conquered my initial fear by attending these two rehearsals.
Then I read,
“Buddhism is win or lose. There is no middle ground.” – Daisaku Ikeda
Middle ground would have been me thinking I had a victory by attending these two rehearsals and not following through and performing, and since there is no middle ground in Buddhism, in reality it would have been a loss. While getting to that first rehearsal was indeed a victory, it was just a fraction of a truly profound victory. My true victory would lie in playing in this show. The following day, the green light was given, and I was so fortunate to be able to perform.
How was the show, you ask? It was f’ing SPECTACULAR. I performed with a violinist and two singers. I played for three of the pieces, one with just the violinist, us improvising together. I’ve never improvised music on my own, let alone based on dance, let alone with another person, and we killed it! Another we played as all four musicians, and another just me and a singer.
I was in a show program (my first ever! Had to scramble for a head shot and piece together a bio), I was approached by audience members appreciative of the beautiful music we produced. I in actuality, faced and broke through one of my most profound fears. Words cannot express the sense of confidence, ownership, and wonder I feel. Wonder at how much I really am capable of, and how little I give myself credit.
But the best thing was that, through this whole process, as I underwent such a huge transformation myself, I was able to inspire another young woman in the audience.
To begin with, I was pretty embarrassed about my bio. All the other girls had degrees in their concentration and had performed with all of these other companies, and my bio basically spoke of my switching from piano to cello. But the night of the second show, a young woman immediately approached my and the violinist and told us she enjoyed it, then told me she loved my bio! It turns out she has been playing classical piano for years too and always loved the sound of the cello, but couldn’t find a way to pick it up, and that she was so encouraged by my experience. It was the icing on the cake, because more than anything else, my mission is to use my music and writing to inspire people, more than making money off of them. And performing with this company is what helped me to realize how to do this.
I have been walking around with a stupid huge grin on my face since the last show…We so often convince ourselves that we are not capable, that something is impossible, or that our fear is greater than our capacity. What a disservice this is, to ourselves and others. But I have accomplished something I in all honesty did not think I was in the least bit capable of, proving myself wrong, and the sense of power and conviction I have in myself and how far I can go, is more deeply rooted that it has ever been. My sense of gratitude for this “chance” encounter in the train station is never ending.
It’s only higher from here…
“If you summon your courage to challenge something, you’ll never be left with regret. How sad it is to spend your life wishing, “If only I’d had a little more courage.” Whatever the outcome may be, the important thing is to step forward on the path that you believe is right.” – Daisaku Ikeda