“Andrew, David, and Emily, the audition committee would like to hear you again. Everyone else is free to go.”
As you may know from my last blog, my challenge was to take the Oregon Symphony audition without comparing myself to any other cellist or strangling the inspired experience with the desire to win.
What happened that day confirmed that Inspired Performance works even in an audition.
After checking in, I was assigned a dressing room in a remote nook of the building. I began with my ritual of brief meditation and slow warmups, focusing on a relaxed mind, body and sound.
I felt the inspiration begin to awaken within me, an energetic focus in my spine and forehead.
But just as I began working on the audition list, I heard another cellist enter the room beside me. Soon I could hear big beautiful tones resonating through the wall between us. I could feel myself becoming much more self-conscious, because if I could hear them, they could hear me. Was it someone I knew? I briefly focused on their playing, but kept my ego-active competitive drive in check.
And as I enjoyed their playing, I gave myself permission to enjoy my own.
And then before I knew it, it was my turn to play. The moment of truth: Could I keep my inspiration, or would my nerves snuff it out like a bucket of ice water? My goal isn’t to play cold and reserved, removing the risk of squashed feeling.
My goal is to make inspiration so tangible and big that nothing can crush it.
I entered the room, sat down, and did my Hush-Heart-Lift-Flow for 10 seconds. My heart was beating FAST. I breathed deeply and slowly, which kept my muscles from freezing up.
The first notes of my Dvorak concerto swept me into the flow of the music. This was my minute and a half, and I enjoyed every second of it.
But then I went too far.
I found myself smiling with the joy of the music.
My conservative brain butt in. “Cut it out! There’s no SMILING during an audition!” But I didn’t care. If this was going to be a true experiment, I had to go all in.
When they dismissed me after only half the list, I guessed that I didn’t make the cut.
But as I left the room, I had the answer to my question.
It IS possible to feel inspiration and freedom even in the midst of the stress of an audition.
I packed up my cello and made my way down to the stage door to await the final word. The expected 10 minutes stretched into an hour, and then suddenly they announced my name as a finalist. I was surprised at how calm I felt.
I made my way to my new warm-up room, meditated for a minute and played a few notes. I was soon called back to the audition room. This time the curtain was gone, revealing the music director, the assistant conductor, the principal cellist, and 4 or 5 other highly regarded musicians from the Symphony.
They asked for the rest of the audition list (ah! now I get it!), which went smoothly enough, until my spoken words fulfilled themselves: I had told my directors at BRAVO Youth Orchestra that I had hoped I would miss just enough notes to get me some weekend work, for the Symphony schedule would conflict with my work there.
And there, towards the end of Don Juan, I missed a note that felt like stepping into a big fat cow pie. Thankfully my 20-year practice of transforming explosive reaction to calm response paid off. I quickly regained my composure to finish the excerpt better than before. I was incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to play for these wonderful musicians.
I came back to my dressing room, took this picture, and sent it to my wife. I felt good.
After we had all played, they called Emily back into the room to offer her the job. Although my ego was disappointed, I celebrated the result of my experiment:
Inspired Performance brings inner freedom in even the most stressful of conditions.
The next day I heard that I was now on the sub list. Best possible outcome.