Print by Hazel Nicholls
The semester is ending with or without me, and I've been reflecting on everything that's happened in the past four months.
In my lesson last week, I told my teacher: "I feel like I've done nothing this semester. I'm worried I'm going to fail flute lessons."
I had accomplished a few Karg-Elert Caprices and essentially, one movement of the Uebayashi Sonata. In my undergraduate career, I would knock off 10 or more pieces in a semester, and at least 20 etudes. Clearly, I'm feeling like a failure for not even completing one new piece in its entirety.
My teacher encouraged me to list all of the things I had done, reminding me that repertoire was not intended to be my focus this semester:
I changed my tonguing, improved the placement of my jaw, clarified the idea of support, improved vibrato, improved projection, changed the angle of my upper body allowing me to uncover more of my lower lip (therefore improving flexibility)... and I learned how to circular breathe!
What I learned this semester is that it can be terrifying to go through an inward journey. We're constantly comparing ourselves to those around us, and when you feel as though you have nothing to show on the outside, it becomes difficult to feel valuable.
I had to give up my comfortable habits of playing to replace them with better ones, and there were times when I was completely unable to make any sounds at all. My teacher knew I was ready to study this way, and she was aware that it was a healing process I needed.
There were times when I stopped believing in myself-- I stopped believing that I was good at anything. That's a very frustrating feeling to have when you stop and realize: "I'm pursuing a Masters degree in flute playing... and yet I can't make a sound." I always trusted the process. Even when I was frustrated, I was grateful for the opportunity to struggle, and I absolutely trusted my teacher. She is the most perceptive and intuitive person I've ever met. She knows her students better than they know themselves, and she fosters life-changing experiences during 50-minute flute lessons EVERY week. Honestly. I left EVERY lesson with tears.
I am learning to practice for myself and for my future, not for up-coming performances. Re-establishing my foundation will help me to improve more than practicing pieces ever will. During most of my performances this semester, my mind was saying: "I don't know how to play anymore!" Performing anyway was a chance to struggle, and a chance to grow.
The most important things I learned this semester:
2. Trust. Trusting your teacher leads to self-trust.
3. Gratitude. For the opportunity to struggle.
4. Self-healing is vital, and it starts with being honest with yourself.
5. Letting go. For the opportunity to grow beyond what was previously possible.
"When you want something you've never had, you have to do something you've never done."