Sunday, November 9, 2014

More than 1/2 way there!

When I was in sixth grade, I read Coyle’s The Talent Code and Gladwell’s Outliers.  They argued that being good at most things was more a matter of work than the result of innate talent.  So I decided to conduct an experiment.  I began keeping track of my clarinet practice hours.  My goal was to practice for 10,000 hours.  Then, I would look at how far I’d gotten, to see if Gladwell and Coyle were correct.

This was the start of an amazing journey.  I passed the 5000 hour mark this past summer  on the NYO-USA tour,  and as I look back, I can see how much I’ve grown as a musician, and more importantly, as a human being.

So much has happened!  I’ve soloed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, performed at Carnegie Hall with NYO, and played the national anthem at a Chicago Bulls game.  I’ve toured China, France, and Belgium as the principal clarinet of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and Midwest Young Artists.  I’ve worked with amazing conductors like Carlos Miguel Prieto and David Robertson, and I’ve had lessons with incredible clarinetists such as Anthony McGill, Burt Hara, Steve Cohen, John Bruce Yeh, Wenzel Fuchs, and Stephen Williamson.

But what does this list really mean?  Whenever I win an audition or a competition, I feel a surge of pride and self-accomplishment, but the defeats and the failures have probably taught me the most.  I still remember getting third chair in my youth orchestra after spending an eternity practicing for the audition.  I felt terrible, but I realized that losing an audition was an opportunity to focus upon how much I have left to learn.

At this point, I have 4,445 hours of practice left to reach that 10,000 hour goal.  And then, who knows?  Maybe I’ll take up ballroom dancing.  But probably I’ll stick with clarinet because music has come to define who I am.  I don’t know what all of this will amount too, but I know that I will keep on working and consequently keep on failing.  As Stephen Dedalus said in Ulysses, “errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”