Finding My Music Part 3:
During the summer of 2009 I was getting ready for the premiere of my fourth wind ensemble piece. It was written for a summer band camp that I had been attending since I first started playing the saxophone in the fourth grade. A fair amount of people from my high school also attended the camp but because of the fallout from being kicked out of the school band I couldn’t really call many of them my friends. Normally this wouldn’t have been a huge problem but I was going to have to rehearse and conduct my new piece at this camp. I spent most of my free time at the camp just practicing piano or clarinet since I didn’t really have much in the way of friends to socialize with. From the start of my first rehearsal with the wind ensemble I knew that this was going to be a nightmare. The first chair trombone player was my ex-boyfriend who hated me, the trumpet section included my ex-boyfriend’s best friend and a few other people who didn’t care much for me. And half the saxophones also didn’t particularly care for me. The flutes and clarinets were really the only people in the ensemble who actually had any intention of listening to me. I spent a week running rehearsals where half the ensemble wouldn’t pay any attention to me at all. I still dislike standing up in front of an ensemble to this day in large part because of that experience.
The day before the performance the piece was still an absolute mess and I knew there was nothing that could be done about it. It’s hard to explain just how terrible it is to be in front of an ensemble that has a vendetta against you while playing your music. By the end of the final rehearsal we had not managed to play through the piece without stopping and it was only a seven minute piece of music. Now in retrospect this piece was nothing particularly good or groundbreaking, but then none of my early music was. I don’t think I could find the score or recording if I tried but I do remember that the title was “Return to Paradise” —it will take me a few years to learn how to title a piece.
And that brings us to the performance, the single most traumatic performance experience of my life —note that we’re being very specific with that, it will be important in a few years. It’s the day of the concert, I’m as ready as I can possibly be. At a minimum I know all of my parts both playing and conducting but I know there’s nothing that can be done about the rest of the ensemble at this point. I start the piece, it’s going fine and then about two minutes in an entrance is missed and it snowballs, nobody is playing in the right place, half the ensemble is just staring at me and without their instruments to their faces. The whole thing is a complete disaster, I stop conducting, turn to the audience, and say “Let’s try that again”. I attempt to put a smile on my face but it was pretty obvious I was mortified. Take two the ensemble gets through the piece and its…fine…meh. The rest of the concert goes by in a blur, I’m sure it was…fine.
Thankfully after that the camp was done. I packed my shit up and went home, and despite a few false starts a wind ensemble piece it was going to be at least a decade until I write another one.