The Journey of a Clarinet Specialist
“5 years ago, where did you think you would be?"
I think many young musicians share the same dream: win an orchestral job and become a clarinet professor/teacher. Five years ago, I shared that dream too, and I hoped to be in graduate school preparing to win that orchestral job. However, life happens on the way to your plans. To give you some context, in 2017 I entered my third year of my undergraduate degree in music education at Baylor University. I majored in music education instead of performance to have more job opportunities just in case I got injured and could not perform. I was excited to perform my first ever recital that year, but I did not know that this recital would also be a major turning point for me. I prepared as best as I knew how to prepare, and I performed with confidence. However, I was not satisfied with my performance. Reality hit me, and it hit hard. Not only was my recital underwhelming, but in addition I had not made it into any major music festivals. I had not won any competitions. I was not even on the sub list for the local orchestra despite being one of the top players in the studio at the time. I felt like I should have been flourishing, but I was not. I was not performing at a high enough level to make it as a performer, and that had to change.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am persistent and I don't give up easily. Performing was my dream and I was not about to give up. After taking time to reflect and having some brutally honest conversations with myself, I decided that I needed to trust myself and my instincts, which requires me to be more honest with myself than I’ve ever been. I needed to trust my own expectations for myself and not settle for anyone else’s expectations. I was told growing up that I was too hard on myself, and that I should lighten up or be kinder to myself. My first few years of college I was getting loads of positive feedback and I thought I could afford to cut myself some slack. However, too much positive feedback fogged my mind and created a false sense of being on track. I found that the most honest feedback comes from a recording device, a metronome, and a tuner. So I took my trustworthy devices and got to work.
I decided to spend the next nine months preparing a second recital that was not required for the degree, but I required it for myself. I took every opportunity I could to use the resources I had around me to make me a better musician, including taking on an apprenticeship in a woodwind repair shop which wound up being an invaluable experience. I took this apprenticeship very seriously, and I absorbed loads of knowledge from my mentor. The things I learned about woodwind repair helped me understand the clarinet on a deeper level and contributed to my growth as a clarinetist. This recital was a test of my potential growth and to see if my expectations were enough. I picked my own program. I prepared the hell out of it using my three trustworthy devices and my knew knowledge from the apprenticeship. And I killed it. I felt like I had redeemed myself and like I was starting to catch up to where I wanted to be. I am grateful for all the woodwind professors and my woodwind repair mentor who helped me achieve that performance. I knew there was so much more I needed to learn, so I decided to pursue a master’s in performance.
Half way through my master’s degree I decided that the military band career path closely aligned with what I valued: performing at a high level for a living and being with my husband. My new goals were set. I took a few military auditions, and I actually won one audition which I decided not to pursue. They could not guarantee that I would be allowed to finish my degree (they can put a position on hold for only a limited amount of time, which is understandable). I chose to finish what I started, and I am proud of my decision because, as I predicted, the knowledge that I gained from my master's degree was invaluable. Five years ago I thought I would be performing with local orchestras and taking every orchestral audition I could while I made ends meet with teaching private lessons. Not to mention that getting married was never part of my plan. However, I wouldn’t go back and change a thing because I love where I am today.
“Where are you now?"
"Where do you think you will be in 5 years?"
I am still taking auditions for the military bands because I want to pursue a career in which I can perform for a living. However, I love the job I have now, and I could see myself as a clarinet specialist for my career as well. Five years from now, whether I am performing with the military or not, I hope I am still working in music and with musicians. I have learned that if I continue to work hard, create opportunities for myself, stay positive, and am always honest with myself, then I will have a good career in music, whatever my end career goal may wind up being.
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