Last week one of my students shared some good news: he’s been invited to send in an audition set to Tanglewood. He plays the Cello and is by all accounts amazing. I marveled at the invitation and congratulated him, as did the rest of the class. He blushed though and said, “I’m not sending it in. I’m not ready.”
It was as if his words detonated a bomb. The class exploded. Not in laughter. Not in derision. In support. They demanded that he send in the audition. That he is ready. That he is talented enough.
I was taken aback. Many of these students know of his skill and have witnessed him play, but I can readily attest after reading his memoir piece and journal entries (it’s a writing class) that none of them understand how much he has worked on his craft, nor how significant, exhilarating and daunting such an invite is.
However, I do.
Anyone who has been asked by an agent to send in a partial and then the entire manuscript knows exactly the feeling: Am I good enough?
I know little about the musical world, but I can assume there exists a fair level of criteria for what is “talent” mixed with a dose of subjectivity on its delivery. Much as there is in writing. From what I have witnessed, my student has both the talent and the presence. Once I calmed down the class, I appealed to him.
I told him that he had no choice. That we as the class believe in him and that regardless of the outcome he had to at go for it. I told him that even if he didn’t get invited, the potential for constructive criticism was too important to pass up. He replied, “They don’t give a response.”
How many times have agents, who are not supposed to respond beyond the form letter, provide critique? How many suggest a revision and then a resubmission? I couldn’t help but draw the parallel.
I told him that it didn’t matter if others didn’t get feedback, he might, and that there was absolutely nothing to lose in the proposition. If he wasn’t ready, then so be it. He loves music. He is music. He will always be a musician. When the time is right, he will do amazing things, because he has the talent, because he strives to do better, and because he is humble in his devotion to his muse.
There is an invaluable lesson in his plight. It’s emblematic of the struggle that emerges for all of us. I’ve received hundreds of rejections, but have persevered. What else was there to do? I write. It’s a part of me that is as natural as thinking or speech. In fact, it is the combination. I love to communicate my perspective. It may be the one and only way I am ever truly heard.
I believe the same is true for my student, and I have a feeling he will send in the audition. He may succeed this time, or he may not. It doesn’t matter, because at least he is going for it. We must push, even when it might not be our time, because at one point it will.