My friend’s email came out of the blue, as most things do. She was going to be in Europe, she wanted a premiere performance, she wanted to sing my songs. Sure! Why not? Further discussions about programming led her to flatly state, “Why don’t we just do a whole program of your songs?” OK…
At the end of the summer, I had had a good feelings about a few competitions, a university residency was in the works, and workshops of the new opera were lined up. All of that unceremoniously went away (for various reasons) and I was left with the prospect of an empty season. It wasn’t the first time, but the simultaneous bottom dropping out, and the back-to-the-drawingboard-ness of the residual reckoning was something I was naively hoping to avoid.
Back in the day, when my wife’s career was just starting – and we were juggling a new marriage, life in a new city, and her doctorate – one of the mantras we told each other was “take every audition.” And she did take EVERY audition, no matter how bad a fit it was, no matter what shitty comments she wound up getting, no matter that she was afraid and uncertain. Eventually, someone said “yes” and the rest is history, but before that it was unclear how it would all pan out. I had faith, though.
Later, when trying to apply the mantra to my own fledgling career out of the admin marketplace, I translated “take every audition” to mean “apply for every shitty competition you can find” and, above all “CREATE YOUR OWN OPPORTUNITIES.” This was a way for me to think that I was “putting myself out there,” but I wasn’t, really.
The truth, for me, is that competitions and “opportunities” take a back seat to relationships and professional interaction at every level, even if it means sending a letter of admiration to a composer whose work I admire, without any expectation of return (as Dr. See taught me).
What I am constantly reminding myself of now, is that the “opportunities” I was seeking to create for myself was the smokescreen of “value.” The topic of “value” in the artistic endeavors being way to big for one blog post (spoiler alert: there is no intrinsic value to artistic endeavor; it is also invaluable), suffice to say that an opportunity (if you’ll pardon the word) to work with people with whom you have tried to forge a personal relationship is in itself better than not, and better than never having tried at all, while under the banner of “Artistic Value.”
So, of course, I said “yes” to my friend and her wacky idea of trying to put a show on in less than three months when a third of the music had not yet been written, but THAT is another story for another blog post (which will be coming shortly).