The Curse of Region 8

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.

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3 thoughts on “The Curse of Region 8

  1. First… congratulations on your accomplishment in making the All-State Band. It must have taken quite a lot of dedication and practice, and it paid off!
    Second, I can’t say I agree with your mindset upon it. Great accomplishments deserve to be celebrated; don’t find a dismal perspective from which to view the event. Sure, the viewing of things (even good things) from a perspective of “I can do better” is helpful in motivating you to do even better. But this pessimistic mindset for everything, even something so monumental as All-State? I encourage you to take a more positive perspective on accomplishments – they’re accomplishments for a reason, after all.

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    • Wow! All-State is quite the achievement! You should be extremely proud, (I assume you are since this was the post where you were supposed to share what you are proud of). 🙂
      However, I understand the inner conflict you are experiencing because of the pressure that has been set on your shoulders to continue to be the best. I have been grappling with very similar burdens after I had some success in my own extracurricular activity. The pressure is very hard to bear as you continue to try and improve and be the best you can be. The pressure put on you from teachers, coaches, and mentors often seems like too much to handle and like their advice is irrelevant, and in some cases, it is. But I would like to urge you to step back and see where the real pressure is coming from. Whenever I do this, I often find that it is myself that is causing so much pressure and anxiety. I try too hard to conform to what I think others want me to be. In reality, most of my mentors are trying to help me to be whatever I want to be, not the other way around. Just today, one of my closest mentors told me to worry about me. No one else but me. And do whatever I needed to do to take care of myself and whatever I wanted to get out of my life. Don’t worry about what others think, because they are not you, and they do not know what you are going through.
      I hope this is a little helpful!

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  2. Hey congrats on making All-State Band, man. (I think this is Simon… maybe? Erm, idk.) Anyways, definitely be proud of your accomplishments. I can only speak from my experience in orchestra, but if All-State Band music is anything like ours… it’s pretty gosh darn hard. It’s an accomplishment to even play that stuff decently well, and to make it to All State? Wow. So be proud of yourself! On the other hand, I can see what you’re saying about all the pressures and stuff. I make decent grades, but my parents are always pushing me to do better. I feel like even though it might feel like your mentors are putting a lot of pressure on you, they’re just trying to help you in the end. And it’s good to be a perfectionist sometimes, but just don’t push yourself too far. You’re doing a great job, and you should definitely acknowledge that. 🙂

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