Check Your Ego

At orchestra rehearsal Thursday night our director gave a little lecture about egos. He hates them, he says he can smell them, and it stinks like nothing else. He does not allow egos in his choirs or orchestra, so if you have an ego, get rid of it now. We can not play/rehearse/perform well as an ensemble with individual egos getting in the way.

I totally agree, and in theory I have no problems with what he said. Too I have seen instrumentalists with these huge egos (and never quite the same amount of talent to back it up) treat the other musicians around them as if they were still in beginning band and too stupid to really “get” the music like they do. In one of our first rehearsals last fall a member of the orchestra had a question about a chord that was being played and was it correct? As our director looked in the score, this orchestra member said in what I perceived as a very know-it-all voice, “I’m a conductor so I’m trained to hear these things.” I rolled my eyes. The majority of us in that room are classically trained musicians with higher degrees in music. We are all trained to “hear these thing”. Sheesh. Get rid of the ego and just have fun with the rest of us, please.

It’s not hard for someone like me to get rid of the ego. I’m not that talented (I’m not kidding, so I don’t want to hear in the comments anything saying otherwise. I just work my butt off to play mediocre. Seriously. I’ve known this about myself for about 20 years.) and I consistently need more practice and more help than others. I’m usually okay with this. I enjoy playing in a good ensemble more than anything, and I’m willing to put in the extra effort so I can play decently. I have never been a first chair, I have never been a section leader, I have never been the principle player. I have never won any awards for my playing other than “participant” and I have never been the one sought out for solos. Even at church. I’m not that great. I just love it. I feel so blessed to have even made this orchestra, an honestly I think I’m in it because it was brand new and not enough flute players auditioned in the first place. Once you’re in, you’re in.

I had a major blow to what little ego I had at the first rehearsal a week ago because after I sat down and started to warm up and such, I was informed that the directors had decided to bring in a 4th flute. A piccolo player. I was disappointed because I had been practicing my piccolo so that I could comfortable play it in this concert. And the 2nd flute was more than willing to split the piccolo parts with me. But that’s okay, I thought. Now I can concentrate on my flute. No worries. The thing is, they don’t want her just sitting there, bored, so we have to double our parts. Normally I don’t have a problem with that. I’m used to playing in bands where you have more than one player per part anyway. However, in orchestra, you usually have 2 flutes and once piccolo who plays the occasional 3rd flute part. There are not 4 flute parts. So now I’m either doubling the 2nd flute part or the 3rd flute part and I’m feeling pretty superfluous. The piccolo player is obviously more talented than I am. I am feeling like I am only still here because they told us “Once you’re in, you’re in.” I feel like I have to fight to prove that I belong here.

The hardest thing about being a musician is learning when to let go. We are taught to play with perfection. Anything less than perfect just will not do. That is why we will spend weeks and weeks learning one piece of music. We will spend an hour in the practice room perfecting one measure. We do not stop until it’s perfect, and we aren’t happy until we can do it perfectly. I don’t know that it’s entirely healthy, but that’s the way it is. So when something happens and you have to just let it go, it’s hard. And whatever little bit of an ego you had is now completely shot.

I have to let go of this idea that I’m not needed in this orchestra and I’m some kind of “pity” member. I have to remind myself that I did audition and they didn’t tell me “no”. They accepted me. They didn’t have to. I’m sure they could have found other flutists to take my spot if the directors didn’t like my audition in the first place. I have to let go and practice and just do the best I can.

I checked my ego at the door. And now, I’m off to practice some more.

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3 responses to “Check Your Ego

  1. So, now you don’t need to play the piccolo anymore? I remember how worried you were about that.

    I never took music but I am learning firsthand about the practising from my son. He really, really wanted to play the bass in Jazz Ensemble, and now that he’s been given the opportunity, he’s really working hard to make sure he doesn’t disappoint.

  2. Sariah, I have never heard you play so I can’t make any comment about your talent vs. your self-perception. I know you to be hard on yourself, but I also know exactly what you mean about needing to practice more than other people. That is exactly me! It always makes me cringe when people say I’m “talented” because the truth is I can play what I play because I spent twice as many hours as other people learning the same thing. I am proud of my hard work, and I know that I did receive talents from the Lord, but to just say “you’re so talented” doesn’t seem like a good fit. I know others, many others, far more talented than myself. And I’m okay with that. Good luck finding your place in orchestra without your ego. I’m sure you’ll do just fine!

  3. I’ve been thinking about this post in the back of my head all evening, and I really have to say that I’ve got a strong feeling that there is a bigger hand at play in this. It may not be you or the new piccolo player, you may not realize it until some time later, but I think God really wants you in this orchestra for some larger purpose. It’s just this funny feeling in the back of my head.

    P.s. If I were you, I’d be doing the happy dance that I could stop practicing the piccolo! It’s why I wanted to be on the flag line – flute can be beautiful, but at least MY piccolo isn’t!!! :o)

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