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Olympic Inspirations: Frustration

Last night I was watching the mens gymnastics team final, and things were not going well for our heroes.  And I recognized all of the emotions flitting across the faces of these amazing, talented, and well-prepared athletes.  They were ready every time they stepped up, and they knew exactly what they were planning to do and how well it was supposed to go, and they were shocked and surprised and disappointed each time when a serious error happened. As the evening wore on, I saw the confidence fade, and the men began to step up defensively, just trying not to screw up, and of course that just made things all the more likely to fall apart. 

That feeling rings so true this month.

In my head I am solid.

I have come a long way since college, and since my early years as a young, green  professional.  I do know how to play in an orchestra, and how to blend and match what my colleagues are doing, and also how to formulate a musical idea and get it across.  I know how to  make a reed that works and how to sneak a note into a chord and how to keep my instruments adjusted so that they work reliably.  These are basic skills.

But for some reason this festival and its altitude are kicking me six ways to Sunday.  I have been  struggling with reeds and instruments in a way that is no longer familiar to me.  In my head I know what I am doing, and I have a plan for every entrance and solo.  In actuality, these past two weeks, something happens to make me sound like a rookie in every entrance and solo.  Water in the keys, an unexpectedly hard or soft reed, a screw that has slipped loose.  

And this is extremely frustrating.  I’m better than this, I really am, but very few people in this orchestra know that, and in rehearsal I don’t SOUND like I am better than this.  The concerts have gone fine - so the audience doesn’t know - but my colleagues do and it is a grim feeling. 

So I feel the pain of our Olympians.  I know what it’s like to be caught by surprise by a poor performance.  I have three more weeks here to prove myself, and another week of Olympics from which to seize inspiration.  Tomorrow is Brahms and Rossini and I GUARANTEE I CAN DO THIS.


  1. I sort of hinted in my last comment that in many ways performing at a high altitude for the first time, and also not familiarizing oneself with what might be lurking ahead, is like navigating in uncharted waters. I am saying this not so much to allay your frustration-that is all gone by now- but to redirect your attention,( if I may be so presumptuous), to the possibility that not you alone was the cause of your dissatisfaction.
    I sent you an email with some thoughts about altitude problems that I recalled and read about, but it was returned by Mailer-Daemon.(I sent it to that address no longer operative?
    I see you have been busy, and hope the rest of the festival went satisfactorily.
    Glad you enjoyed the Olympics and identified with the gymnasts. The games go back to 776 BC, in ancient Olympia. They would begin when the herald would announce in his stentorian voice: “The games begin; the depository of best human feats”
    Please let us share more of your music even if through your blog

  2. Thanks for your comments, as always, Dimitri! Yes, I'm sure that the altitude was (and is) the biggest reason for my flailing - but like most honest musicians I blame myself first and foremost, always. It's unpleasant, but the best way to improve!

    My email address is unchanged, but I think you left out the middle initial N - jennetNingle@gmail is the best way to reach me.

    You will have noticed that I'm on an extended break from the blog and internet - this festival is long and I am tending to use my free time to hike rather than write. I'll be back to babbling as soon as the scenery stops being so spectacular - in other words next week when I get back to Indiana...




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