Last year (really this year, since it was in the February of 2014, though it now feels so distant) I made history: I became the first person from A&M Consolidated HS to make the 5A All-State Band as an underclassman. Moreover, no one from my region had made State in five years. At my audition at the TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) convention, I ranked second-highest among underclassman trombonists from across the state, as well as eleventh overall, earning me third chair in the top band, which was conducted by one of the most renowned composers in modern-day music, Frank Ticheli. During the week I spent there in San Antonio, I worked harder than I ever had musically, because not only did I have something to prove, but also I couldn’t afford to make a mistake during the upcoming concert! The work paid off, and I delivered an unforgettable performance with the most talented musicians/friends I have ever met. Upon my return to Consol, everything had changed, however: no longer could I be complacent; no longer could I be imperfect; no longer could I be a high-school musician.
From a few hours after I received the news – news that I refused to believe at first, I might add –, I recognized the burden that was bestowed upon me: I have repeat my success two more times. Addressing this, I have worked even harder than I did last year, putting in countless hours at home and in private lessons. Last year I practiced from the afternoon the music came out in August up until the night before the Day That Changed All Days (slight overstatement). Yet, I still dealt with doubters. A few days after my initial All-State audition, one of my closer friends, in conversation, said to me, “If you made State then the bands there must not be as great at [another student who is now pursuing a jazz degree at a major music school] said it is.” I was upset, justifiably, but I came to realize that this – now – is when I need to prove myself; making State was not enough.
Even before that fateful day, I had a tense relationship with my band directors at times. I resisted efforts for them to mold me into their star student: I quit the jazz band before they made me the featured player, and I never took part in the pep band or the musical orchestra. Instead, I focused on my own (non-musical) interests, which upset them. Looking back, I think these decisions were motivated by my desire to break out of the predicament they put me in: one of the band directors, after my return from TMEA, declared to the band that “since [I] made All-State, [I] can do no wrong”. How could that possibly backfire? No pressure at all! I still struggle with this (though the directors’ image of me as an angel has surely faded, haha), and it simply compounds on top of the stress I already have from the process itself! I made it once – and I learned that my achievement was no fluke – but I still must reproduce it at the cost of my reputation, but more importantly, my mental well-being. A few weeks ago I wrote about my perfectionism and how I am extremely hard on myself; this manifests so often in my musical life that sometimes I avoid listening to my cherished recordings of my TMEA performance. Needless to say, though I have enjoyed the spoils of my victory, it has proven itself to be a double-edged sword.
I did not end the curse of Region 8: I inherited it.