Kenley Kristofferson

Composer. Teacher. Writer. Voice Actor.

Music Ed Monday – Lighthouse Music (Part 1)

Fiery-sunset-at-lighthouse-pier

Source: miriadna.com

Hey team,

I love music – I really do. I think about it quite a lot, but when both my day and night jobs are music, sometimes I get so burned out that I can’t see the forest from the trees; or rather, the beauty in the sonic fabric from the succession of pitches in a unidirectional harmonic progression.

Sometimes, we play music; sometimes, we work music. When the grind of it starts to get to me, I often have this small voice in my mind that whispers: “I do love this, right? Right…?”

And I know that I do, but it’s almost like being lost at sea at times and I really need a lighthouse to bring me back. I call these songs/pieces/works lighthouse music because it helps bring my musical ear to shore. Here are a few of them:

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Morten Lauridsen – Lux Aeterna

I keep trying to write about this, but I just can’t. It speaks to me in a way that transcends line and harmony and craft. It’s one of the few pieces that I don’t analyze and I just let it wash over me (and I’ve studied/listened to a lot of Lauridsen). And this monstrously good performance sure doesn’t hurt either.

When I hear this, I sometimes tell myself: “This is what light sounds like.” It’s as though the light embraces me, it pulls me in and surrounds me. That’s how I feel when I hear Lux Aeterna.

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Lord of the Rings (Annie Lennox) – Into the West

I never know what to write about this, other than it moves me every time I hear it. I always want to be technical about it – you know, “the lyrics,” “the tone,” “the orchestration…” But I don’t know, I feel things when I hear it and I feel like that needs to be enough.

As someone who has read all of Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion, the Children of Húrin, the Unfinished Tales (you get the picture), the narrative runs pretty deep for me. There’s something about Into the West at that point in the story that speaks to me in a very authentic way–leaving friends behind, being unable to live in the world you used to, saying goodbye…

(And all the technical things too. It’s one heck of a performance).

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Final Symphony – Born with the Gift of Magic (Final Fantasy VI)

For anyone who’s into music from video games, Final Fantasy VI is core repertoire and there have been countless orchestrations of it (even when an orchestra is entirely unnecessary for the musical goal, but that’s a whole other can of worms). As someone who knows this score inside and out, I’ve always been waiting for someone to take the musical material and work the heck out of it, which is what Born with the Gift of Magic is; in fact, the entire Final Symphony concert/album does it.

The orchestration, structure, and performance is amazing, but the thematic layering is a grad-school level assembly of the musical material that mirrors the narrative. It’s not just a medley, it’s the central conflict of the game and it’s all framed in the series most iconic sequence (the opera, if you’re wondering, which is also the unifying structure of the game). It’s genius… out of this world…  Ah! The craft!

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Ingrid Michaelson – The Chain (Live from Webster Hall)

My wife and I listened to this album quite a lot when our son was first born, sometimes at 4am while bouncing on an exercise ball, counting the seconds until he’d fall asleep again. I must have heard this song a hundred times, but I still love it, maybe because it takes me back to that crazy period…

Also, dodie/orla/lauren’s is really great too. There’s this really beautiful purity in their voices, the kind that only comes from young people who love to sing.

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What are some of your lighthouse songs/pieces/works? Post in the comments or reach out on facebook/twitter! I’d love to hear from you.

Keep fighting the good fight.
-K

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Music Ed Monday – The Long Game

I’m writing this as my baby is fussing in the crib beside me — not crying or screaming, just kind of whining.

We’re in the midst of sleep training our seven-month old and there are many days where I feel like what we’re doing just isn’t working.  Even a week into this, there is still a lot of fussing and particularly around nap time.

It makes me think a lot of picking/rehearsing repertoire. As music educators, it’s one of the most important parts of our job: Picking the right rep for the right band. If I had a nickel for every time I said “I really like this piece, but it’s not right for this group…”

The strange thing is that sometimes I pick a piece of rep that I think is a great choice for my band and, despite my best efforts to pre-teach the concepts, it just doesn’t work; it may not even work for a few weeks.

If you’ve been there, you know the questions we ask ourselves: Did I misjudge the piece? Or my group? Why isn’t it working? And then the logical last question: Do I pull it?

Sometimes, the right decision is to pull it, right? How long as an ensemble do we decide to keep banging this square peg into a round hole? And no one is enjoying it at that point either (including us teachers) and we’re just dragging the band up the hill. Now we’re a month behind schedule and we have fill this gap left by this piece that we thought was going to be great.

This is how I feel about sleep training.  There are many days where I just bang my head against the wall and feel like a terrible parent, especially in the beginning.

On the other hand, there are times where my baby actually stops crying and falls asleep by himself and those are wonderful moments. They don’t happen every time, but they happen sometimes. Many parents tell me that’s normal and that I shouldn’t expect every nap to be a magical perfect experience…

… Just like a rehearsal, right? Some days, it’s two steps forward and one step back; and others, it’s one step forward and two steps back.  Those are the days we need to review.

And then the days get better. The baby needs to learn how to sleep and the band needs to learn how to work through pieces they can’t nail on the first read. In short, both the baby and the band need to work through things they can’t immediately do and that’s okay. It’s okay if it’s hard.

In my earlier years, I would give my senior big band a piece that was pretty above-level for them in September. To be sure, the band would usually listen to a recording of it and really like it, then barely get through four bars of it. I reassured them that it probably wouldn’t sound good until November, but that this was the next level and we needed to work on how to learn it. We needed to practice how to practice it.  I still think that there’s educational merit in it, but there’s a particular personal merit too.

As I’m writing this line, the baby is now sleeping. It took a few pick-ups and put-downs, a couple of head rubs, and a handful of shushes (and some screaming later on, on his part), but he did it.  It wasn’t a pretty hour of fussing–67 minutes, to be exact–but he got it.

Baby sleeping in crib

(not my baby, I found this one at hirerush.com)

To bring this back to my big band, they usually started putting the above-level piece together around late November. And let me tell you, when something technical falls into place, it is joy that we rarely experience as educators because there is genuine accomplishment and success in the band and they know it. They worked hard and could do something that they couldn’t do before, then we give them genuine praise for their sincere accomplishment.

There is value in playing the long game.

That brings us back to the question: Do I pull it? If we believe in the piece and believe in the band, are we willing to play the long game, especially when there isn’t as much gratification during the day-to-day? Truthfully, maybe we can structure in more short-term gratification with smart pedagogy and rehearsal strategies, but the long game is the long game, no matter how you slice it.

With baby, we’re in this sleep training business for the long haul. The baby rests better and longer, and also is in a deeper sleep. And hey, we adults have more time during the day to do what we need (like writing a blog post?) so everyone wins, but especially baby.

If it’s the right piece, the band can also be the one that wins, not only by performing the piece well, but actively working through material that’s difficult and challenging for them–I say again, there is educational value in that! It’s a gift in life we can give to our students. Not only can we can teach them how to persist through adversity, but we can do it while making music.

-K

P. S. …aaaaaaand they’re awake. A 20-minute nap? I thought they were supposed to sleep longer and better! Ugh, two steps forward…

NEW PIECE – “Colossus”

Hi everybody,

So, it’s been a big year.  In the last eight months, my family grew by one and I took a one-year sabbatical from teaching to pursue a Master’s degree in Composition from Brandon University.  I know, perhaps we could have timed that better but, as the old saying goes, “the right time is when it happens,” right?

Anyway, I’ve certainly learned a lot this year (from both experiences above) and I’m ready to share my second semester piece for concert band, “Colossus.” It’s a Level 5 piece–my first one–and it’s a programmatic tale about the dangers of human hubris… oh, and hunting a giant.

Giants are in folklore and media from across the world, though I’ve long been fascinated with the creatures who protect (rather than attack) humankind; the gryphon is one such creature, but what if it were a giant? Something like humans, but bigger? My first thought is that humanity would rather protect itself and that there would be great honour to whomever slayed the giant (because we are arrogant and often don’t trust what is there to protect us, right?).  However, even more provocative questions are “who will protect you when the giant is gone? And what were they protecting you from that you never even saw? And was removing your guardian even a good idea?” And my favourite one: “What happens now?”

(And if you think that humanity doesn’t behave that way, look no further than Brexit).

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You might also be thinking that this sounds a whole lot like the plot to Team Ico’s 2005 release Shadow of the Colossus for PlayStation 2 and you’d be right. In fact, there’s a great big quote for you about two-thirds of the way in.  I drew a lot of inspiration from the game’s narrative (including the piece’s title), but especially from the music.  I studied Gus Tredwell’s (The Slow Pianist on YouTube) piano transcriptions and looked at how all of that music was put together.  The title Colossus implies a Greek sensibility, as opposed to “giant” or “jotun” or something, so all of that is in there.

Even the structure has a Shadow of the Colossus element to it: It starts strong, but there is a long slow build as the giantslayer traverses the landscape, gradually growing in intensity as the colossus gets clearer into view, despite still being far away.  When the battle finally engages (with the band restating the opening motive), the music is dark and dramatic until the hero takes the upper hand, when it gets epic and victorious.  That last section, however, is very short and where we expect a triumphant ending, we get an unsettled ending, as though we may have done something we shouldn’t have.

Musically, I’m pretty outside of my comfort zone here.  There’s a lot of diminished and augmented harmony in the first half as dissonances stack through the band.  The second half of the piece is quite chromatic over pedal tones, so the different sections feel more like key areas and less like harmonic motion from chord to chord (slow harmonic motion is something I really worked on throughout the piece).

So, I hope you enjoy it and, if you want to play it, send me a note (in the “Contact” field) and let me know!

-K

The Past Year and the Next!

How can it be that it be that I haven’t updated this website in seven months? Wow, we’d better get started.

IMG_6691.JPG2017 was an amazing year, both personally and professionally.  Let’s start with the personal stuff:

  • My son was born on November 4th! He’s just the best.
  • I started grad school and am actually doing university right.  More on that later.
  • I made some of the best beer I’ve ever made in my entire life (A citric IPA, a Cascade SMaSH Pale Ale, and a vanilla bourbon stout, if anyone is interested.)
  • My podcast/YouTube show about video game music, Into the Score, is starting to gain some traction.  Maybe you’d like to watch it?

And now, the professional stuff:

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  • I taught a great year at my school, Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School.
  • I wrote a three-movement work for band and choir called “Transcendent Light” and it had the most glorious premiere by the Winnipeg Wind Ensemble the Manitoba Music Educators’ Association.  It was inspired by Ken Epp, who gave so much strength to music education in our province.  I am so grateful that I got to write the piece.
  • I wrote a piece for 150 trumpets for a Canada 150 brass concert in Regina, Saskatchewan (that’s in Canada, btw).  Also, I got to hang out with Pete Meechan and Michelle Styles, who are two of the most wonderful musicians and composers you’ll ever meet.
  • I worked with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra on two separate occasions: I did seven of ten arrangements for their “Manitoba, mon amour” show that celebrated Franco-Manitobain musicians in WinnipegIMG_6561and I did four pieces for Faouzia and the WSO for the Canada 150 Canada Day show at the Forks.
  • “The Matters of Kindness” is finally published! It’s going out with Grand Mesa Music in Spring 2018 and I hope that every band in the world plays it.
  • I’m still working on Ship Out of Luck by Complex Games.  It is really coming along – this game is going to make waves.  It’s looking and sounding so amazing.
  • I wrote a euphonium concerto, am setting my “Prairie Trombone Suite” for band, and have some new work under my belt for the coming year.
  • Published two articles in the Canadian Winds!

There’s a lot coming up on the horizon, so stay tuned!

Let’s have a great year.
-K

 

 

Music Ed Monday – New Show, Same Nerd.

After weeks and weeks of researching, reading, recording, filming and editing, my new show launches today.  The original “Into the Score” ran from 2004 to 2007; it was a time where I was a very different person, or at least I thought I was.

If anyone who’s reading this knows me personally, you’ll probably know that I’ve been interested in video game music for the majority of my life.  If we’ve ever spoken more deeply, you might know that I’m particularly interested in studying it and seeing how it works musically, in culture, and in the game.

The big difference between launching the original show in my early twenties and this one in my mid-thirties isn’t just that it’s video this time.  To be honest, I am becoming one of those adults who gets more scared to take risks as I’m getting older.  I remember a stand-up comic saying that in a bit I saw: “Make sure you do things when you’re young because you’ll get too scared as you get older.”

I’m not scared of the work or the know-how, it’s something that our kids struggle with in our classrooms: The willingness to show people who you really are and to show them what you really care about.

As a now-steadily-working professional musician, I was really worried that my show would sabotage my composing career.  It might still wreck it, but I’m not worried about that anymore… because it might not.  I needed to take the advice that I give to kids all the time: “People will be more interested if you’re real and genuine with them.” Also this gem: “Everyone is too busy doubting themselves to doubt you.”  Or maybe this one: “People are interested in people who have cool and unique interests.” Seriously, I’ve got a hundred of’em.

It’s risky to go out and spread words that we believe in, but if we don’t say them, then who will? It’s okay to disagree, it’s okay to be judged, but we might be creating the very content that someone has been looking for their whole lives.  That might sound unreasonable, but that was often the response that I got for the first “Into the Score” thirteen years ago.

The early 2000s was the infancy of podcasting.  It’s true, there were podcasts before “Serial” and it was an amazing time to be creating content.  There were many shows about video game music, but they were all jukebox-style without a lot of meat to them.  I wanted something that really dug into the music, the game, the culture around it, and it’s place in the canon of gaming.  I found nonsuch podcast, so I made one and “Into the Score” had a devoted cult following.

(I’m serious, I got an email last week about it and it ended ten years ago.)

The new “Into the Score” is an unabashed, heart-on-your-sleeve, x-to-the-power-of-nerd show about studying video game music and I’d love if you would check it out.  Share it wildly with your friends, family, co-workers, students, etc.

And, if you’re so inclined, please become a patron and support the show financially (and get some cool rewards!) : https://www.patreon.com/intothescore

Thanks for all of your support, everyone.  Say what you mean, mean what you say, and let’s make the world a better place.

-K

Into the Score – RELAUNCH

I can’t even believe it.  The original Into the Score podcast ran from 2006-2010 (about) and, after ten years, it’s coming back in a different form.

More details to come, but it’s happening everyone… it’s really happening.

-K

Music Ed Monday – Radical Empathy

As I was leaving the band room one day, I heard a booming teenage voice. When I got out the door, the hallway was lined with people watching a large young adult cursing and throwing his body around.  The shop teacher and another teacher on duty stood at the end of the hall in case something went seriously wrong.  A hundred pairs of wide Grade 10 eyes watched this boy swearing and marching toward the day, shocked and scared for what might happened next.

He looked my way as he passed and, regrettably, I said something like “Wow, such model behaviour.” I can’t remember what I said, but I immediately knew that I shouldn’t be bringing gas to the bonfire, which of course, I did.

He drew both of his middle fingers toward me and exclaimed—and this is true—“F- – – you, you band b- – – -!” Really, that’s what he said. Then he stormed out of the school and I never saw him again.

When I recounted the story to my wife, the first thing she said was: “I wonder what made him do that.” I was hoping she’d show a little more concern for me, but the fact that her first instinct was one of empathy toward the teen shows how wonderful of a person she really is.  Her first response to many situations like this is one of radical empathy.

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I wonder what might happen if we approached teaching this way. What if we took a long look at what was really happening with our kids who act out, our kids who are perpetually late, or our kids who seem apathetic and resigned to participating in school.  What we’ll find is that there is, almost always, more going on than we know.

Maybe they are starved for attention, that’s why they act out.

Maybe they have to get themselves out of bed and make their own meals, that’s what why they’re always late.

Maybe they feel like no one cares about them or that they aren’t important, that’s why they’re apathetic.

In his book “Pathways,” Joseph Alsobrook recounts a time where he invites one of his outspoken students to a morning meeting before school one day. Alsobrook sat down with the student and they started talking, first about their morning, then about sports and other interests that the student had.  The student was waiting for some kind of punishment, but it never came.  Instead, he got to talk about things that interested him to an adult that was listening and empathizing.

Instead of disciplining that child over and over again, Alsobrook simply listened to him. What if we took the approach of simply asking our students questions about their lives and really listened to them?

As I get older, I find that I have to learn more about the detailed parts of my students’ interests: Social media, Pokemon Go, video games, sports, etc. However, underneath those surface parts of their lives are more timeless and eternal desires: Connection, feeling heard, validation, acknowledgment, attention, being accountable, feeling like they have value, and many others.  They are the things that we all need and that humanity will never stop pursuing.  If a student is acting out, it may be because they’re missing a core value of their life and maybe we can be the ones to give it to them.

Model radical empathy, my teachers!

-K

Music Ed Monday – It Depends on the Room

Disclaimer: I’m not a counselor nor an expert, but I talk to a lot of kids about a great many things related to their well-being.  Here are some patterns of experience paired with elements of mental health that I’ve learned from pro-counselors.  This is one perspective that may challenge you and that’s okay.  Allow yourself to be challenged, then consider it or never think about it again.  It’s up to you.

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This past week, I met a man whose daughter was buying a cello.  She tried about ten celli and, by the end of the day, she’d narrowed it down to two.  As the girl was going through the perks of each one, her father simply asked her which one sounded better.  After a brief pause, she looked up at him and said: “It depends on the room.”

Which is so true – different instruments simply sound different when played in different rooms and the same is true with kids.   Students are dynamic individuals whose behaviour is often determined by where they are and who surrounds them.  A teenager might be goofy in English class, quiet in Physics, pensive in church, or fearful around their overbearing parents.

As educators, we’ll often talk about what a student is like when commenting on their report card or during parent-teacher interviews, but the reality is that we’re only commenting on what they’re like when they’re in our room.

One of my Grade 12 trombone players has said maaaaaaaaaybe ten words out loud over her three years with me, but she’ll howl during a sprawling story in the hallway outside the band room.

My Grade 11 bass player is the queen of sassy comments in rehearsal, but will help the drama teacher at the drop of a hat and always with warmth and a smile.

One of my Grade 10 saxophone players takes a good ten minutes to moisten her reed and get to work, but will crush it in dancing rehearsal and rugby practice.

The truth is that we don’t always know the whole story with people and often times, it depends on what room they’re in.

The original context of that cello story related to mental health and the concept of diagnosis versus looking at root causes of distress.  For example: A student can’t present their project because they have anxiety vs. A student feels anxious because presenting in front of one’s peers is a stressful experience tied in with judgement, feeling good enough, putting themselves out there, etc.  Of course they feel anxious, anyone would feel anxious about this!

The man who told me the cello story also said this to me: “Of course you have Anxiety, now take the capital off.”  I love that.

nowwhatSome Grade 12 students (or first-year university ones) will start to realize their anxiety and see someone about it, then get pills to help them manage it.  As we get closer to graduation, we start to have those conversations about leaving high school.  They mention that they don’t know if they’ve made the right decision to take a year off.  They need to pick classes for college or university and have no idea where their life is going (which is normal, by the way).  They might regret registering for Pre-Med because they really want to be a writer, but their dad wants them to be a doctor and that’s the only way he’ll pay for school.  They might be scared about leaving home and moving out, or the opposite: They might be stressed out about staying at home because they just want to move-the-heck out of their house and live their own lives.

When we look back on these completely normal feelings, it’s easy to understand what they’re anxious about, but that doesn’t mean they need to be clinically diagnosed with anxiety.  They don’t need pills for it, they need to spend some time with their emotions and listen to their body because the anxiety is their body trying to tell them something.

My teaching partner often says that emotions are felt in the body and it’s something we share with our students regularly.  Our body has physical responses to what we’re feeling and both kids and adults wrestle with that.  I’ve seen students with perpetual headaches, then I meet their parents and understand exactly what’s going on.  What they’re feeling isn’t an illness, it’s a ridiculous level of stress and it’s not hard to see why.  Or maybe they have a test they didn’t study for and, coincidently (or not), have a killer stomach ache.  That’s not a stomach ache; they’re feeling stress because they didn’t prepare for something that’s important to them.  They have anxiety, but they don’t have Anxiety.

If we can recognize that, we can start to unravel what’s really going on inside our minds and bodies.  I want to leave it there for this week, but I’ll cover the perils of unpacking in a later installment of “Music Ed Monday.”  I’m not saying it’s easy (it’s the furthest thing from it), but the important work of our life rarely is.  But alas, for a different day.

-K

Side-note:
It’s amazing how much those feelings of stress relate to decision-making.  Many of the examples above are about precisely that: making decisions.  We don’t often get stressed about whether or not to choose the soup or the salad at a restaurant (unless you do, and that’s fine!) or what to watch on Netflix, but rather, about big decisions.  The gravity of making decisions during important moments doesn’t always feel good (and often manifests as stress or anxiety), but that doesn’t mean we need to avoid them.  In fact, we need to do the opposite: we need to embrace them. There is a skill about making decisions under authentic pressure and it’s really important that we develop it early on to make life more manageable down the road.  It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s stressful… and it’s also called growth and growth is often all of these things too.

Photo Cred:

Cello – https://i.ytimg.com/vi/Vych-cTtx2M/hqdefault.jpg

Now What? – https://cdn.psychologytoday.com/sites/default/files/styles/article-inline-half/public/blogs/91500/2012/05/96056-92670.jpg?itok=s70_1k84

 

 

Music Ed Monday – Keep on Keepin’ On

In a really wonderful turn of events, I won a competition this past month! My very first one!

It was the 2015 Canadian Band Association Composition Competition (*whew!*) and my piece for concert band “The Meeting Place” took home the prize.  I really like that tune, and so do a lot of my students – more than many of my other ones, actually.

The funny thing about that particular piece is that I’ve had a really hard time finding a publisher, which freed it up to compete, but it made me feel self-conscious about the work.  Maybe it wasn’t as strong as I thought it was.  Maybe the structure or the voicing needs more work.  Maybe I need to rewrite some parts…

Then I thought back on it: I already rewrote the parts, actually.  The commissioner’s (Alexis Silver’s) band had some pretty beefy instrumentation, so I standardized the score and parts after the premiere; like condensing the six percussion parts into three, for example.  Then we recorded it and it works – it all works, so what was in the way?

If the piece is winning competitions, the reality is that nothing might be in the way. Maybe it just didn’t make the cut in that particular round of publishing submissions, but you’ve got to keep on keepin’ on.  I needed to keep resubmitting it and, finally, it’s getting picked up by a new publishing house in the US (which I can’t say too too much about yet!), but it might still be sitting on my desk had I not kept on.

The same is true with the CBA Competition: This is the third time I’ve entered it.  It would’ve been very easy to quit after the first try, but there are so many factors that go into getting work submitted and getting it accepted.  The first time I entered was after I wrote Filum Vitae and I didn’t win, though I later learned that it was between Filum and the eventual winner, Christiaan Venter’s Rocky Mountain Lullaby.  At the time, all I knew was that I didn’t win.  Not the end of the world, but still not a great feeling.

The second time I entered was with Prairie Wedding and it got an honourable mention, which was a nice feeling, but it still didn’t win.  That being said, it did get some pieces sold and I made some good connections, which rings true to what composer Eric Whitacre says about competitions: You should do them for a myriad of important reasons, but you probably won’t win, and he’s right.

There are so many lessons in losing something, far more than you’ll ever learn if you win.  I’ve thrown my hat in the ring for jobs I wasn’t qualified for or competitions with some pretty big players and it’s taught me one really important lesson: It’s not no, it’s not yet.

For example, I applied for the Composer in Residence job with our local symphony and, as you might have guessed, I didn’t get it.  I didn’t make it past the first round.  However, it got my music into their hands and now I get some smaller gigs with them like arranging or work with schools.  While that’s not a commission for writing a symphony, that’s a heck of a lot more than I was doing with them before.  Maybe with more orchestra work under my belt and, you know, a Master’s degree, maybe I can break into that scene in 5-10 years.

That is, unless I don’t apply for it again, because I didn’t get it once, so why would I get it later?

I’m being facetious, that’s a terrible argument, but a common one.  I ran into one of my former students who’s studying music in university, getting ready for an audition to get into the Performance program there.  She said “I’ll do my best, but if I don’t get in then I’ll probably quit, because it would be so demoralizing.” After two years of crazy practicing and wild success, she might quit if she doesn’t get into this one thing the first time.  To me, that is absolutely crazy, but it happens all the time and to all sorts of people.

Think about all of the people who write a story, send it to one publisher, get rejected, then never write again.  Think about that person who wants a job in finance, applies for the job, doesn’t get it, then works in a job beneath their qualifications and spirals downward thinking about what could’ve been.

It’s so common because rejection is hard, it really is, but it’s how you deal with it that’s important.  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected not once, not twice, but twelve times in a row.  Imagine a world if she gave up – I don’t want to!

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Even as Robert Galbrath, her Cuckoo’s Calling was still rejected by publishers.

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Yes, J. K. Rowling, go take a writing course…

The important thing is persistence, to keep on keepin’ on.  When you put yourself out there, there are a variety of factors that aren’t in your control, the only one in your control is whether or not you put yourself out there.  That doesn’t mean you’ll be 100% successful, but doing nothing guarantees you’ll be 100% unsuccessful.

The best way to not get into music school is to not even apply.  An audition doesn’t mean you’ll get in, but with some preparation, you just might.

The best way to not date that really awesome person you like is to never, ever speak to them.  You might try and they might not go for you, but they might just be surprised by how wonderful of a person you are.

The best way not to have a successful show is make sure you don’t tell anyone about it.  Or, consider telling people about the show and then being super happy that they came.

Put yourself out there and if you don’t achieve your goal, figure out what you can do differently and try it again.  Rinse and repeat until you get it 🙂

Let’s have a great week.
-K

 

 

Music Ed Monday – Driving Lessons

I got to spend some time in Canmore, AB (Canada) this past weekend.  You know, this place:

It’s a really beautiful town, but I really didn’t have a hot clue where I was going most of the time.  I’m a pretty nervous driver when I’m in a place that I don’t know very well, so I was being extra observant and extra careful.  Most of the time, being extra careful is very effective, but sometimes it makes us anxious and we actually end up seeing less.

And that was the case on Saturday afternoon.  I was going to make a left turn and, while trying to see everything, I didn’t see the car coming from my left.

It’s okay, I inched out the stoplight, travelled a foot or two and braked, avoiding an accident by about a hundred feet.  I did, however, get one of these:

You know this face and the feeling you get when you see it.  That mixture of shame, embarrassment, with a dash of anger.  I mean, who does this guy think he is?

And it’s the last point that I want to address because it specifically relates to teaching: Why is he so angry? There are a few things that happen here:

First is the surprise.  The other driver is just caught off guard and gets emotional.  His first reaction is adrenaline – I scared him and he doesn’t like that.

Second, he doesn’t like that he’s surprised and now he’s reacting with the reptilian part of his brain.  There’s a fight or flight mechanism that’s making him feel defensive.  And that defence leads to anger.

Anger is the third one.  He’s angry; or, at the very least, emotional.  He might not be angry at me immediately, but he’s angry.

As we know about emotions (but particularly anger), we don’t always think clearly when we’re in the moment.  As the old saying goes, when emotions are high, intelligence is low, and this is where the social/emotional construct gets hairy.

If it were to end here, that’d be fine.  He’s surprised, he’s emotional, he’s angry – I can deal with that.  The problem comes where he makes eye contact with you and puts his arm in the air signalling that you should know better.  He doesn’t make it about him, he makes it about you.  In fairness, I’m the one who didn’t see him, so it really is about me, really.  However, the problem lies with the arm gesture.  The problem lies with the action he takes against you.

He needed me to know that I was wrong, that “What are you doing, man? Don’t you know better?” look.  He needs to prove to me that I was wrong and assert dominance that he knew better than I did.  In short, he needs to teach me a lesson.  It’s not about driving now, it’s about power.

I have a problem with that because he’s basing all of his actions on the flawed initial premise that my inching out of the stoplight and subsequent braking was done on purpose.  The thought had never entered his mind that, perhaps, I simply didn’t see him and made a mistake.

This happens all the time, but particularly in traffic.  When you see someone cut someone else off and the person behind loses their mind, could it be that maybe the person in front thought that they had more room than they actually did? That maybe the person in front wasn’t trying to be malicious at all and, instead, just made a mistake?

In today’s case, it’s not that I didn’t know better, it’s that I didn’t see him that far away.  When some fifteen year old bumps an eighteen year old in the hallway and the older one screams “what’s your problem?!” it’s most likely that the younger one didn’t see him, thought they had more room, or simply wasn’t paying attention.  No malicious intent involved, just an accident.

Any altercation is better solved with empathy, rather being solved with power.  If you feel slighted or taken advantage of, is it real? Could it possibly be a lack of thinking? Or that the assailant maybe hadn’t thought about their action in the way that you’re thinking about it?

How many people do we know in our lives whose first reaction to all new situations is to get mad?

Something unexpected happens? Anger.

Change in the plans? Anger.

Someone didn’t do things the way that they would do things? Anger.

Someone does something that they wouldn’t do? Anger.

Instead, let’s try and put ourselves in the other person’s shoes for a second before we react.  What are they bringing to the table? What are the other possible outcomes for their action other than to slight me?

(P.S. Odds are that no one is trying to slight you and it’s all in your head.  You aren’t that important, it’s okay, neither am I, neither is anyone)

It’s hard, I know.  It’s about tricking your reptilian brain out of engaging.  Your cerebral cortex isn’t very good at reacting quickly, but it does a much better job of finding solutions.  Really, it does.

And let’s collectively agree to stop trying to teach all of these strangers a lesson.  Leave the lesson teaching to teachers and parents. We don’t always know why people do what they do, but it’s usually someone not thinking, not paying attention, or just making a mistake.

It’s okay, it’s only a big deal if you make it a big deal.  Or, I guess, if this guy does.angry-driver-copy

Let’s do our best, everyone.

-K