Studio class: An hour a week (or more) when all the music students of one applied professor get together for performances, lectures, and presentations.
I’ve been lucky to know studio class as a safe space. I’ve always been around such supportive flutists who really and truly want to see each other succeed, and give each other the tools to do it. It’s the ideal place to get through that first rough performance before an audition or recital—it’s just you and your colleagues, no competition, no ranking.
Studio class is a safe space. Until you film it on Facebook Live.
I have always struggled with being the best, which is inconvenient because I’m painfully aware I don’t stand a chance. With anything, fill in the blank. I don’t wear much makeup because I think I missed the age where it’s forgivable to do it badly, so now I just say it’s “natural” but really it’s quitting. You don’t see me putting my beauty routine on Facebook Live for a reason.
Social media is usually blamed for this comparison syndrome. Yeah, I often strive for my hair/house/pets to look like my Instagram feed, and I won’t post a picture if I’ve found enough flaws (awful makeup skills, subpar camera resources, messy house, etc.), but I fell short even before I was on personal social platforms. My Neopets were far inferior to everyone else’s and it truly bothered me.
I will gladly support artists online. But in this world, I’m purely a consumer; I’m far too chicken and self-conscious to post my playing where someone might listen to it.
Then I agreed to help get our studio classes livestreamed.
Yesterday was our second livestream of the semester. The first one was to test the waters, ending after the piece was done and left out our comments and critiques. It was posted entirely from my iPhone and is shaky enough to be distracting. It got nearly 2,000 views and the most shares of anything else we’ve done.
Yesterday was an hour-long livestream (still entirely on my phone, but remarkably more steady) of three concerti for an upcoming competition this weekend. Suddenly, our bubble feels far less safe.
There is a popular philosophy among musicians that mistakes belong in the practice room only. You should only perform as the most perfect version of yourself, and don’t let anyone peep at the man behind the curtain. Yesterday, I messed up live on the internet and I can’t take it back.
This was an incredibly humbling experience. I thought I was over my performance anxiety, but seeing that tiny iPhone propped on a stand at the back of the hall alerted me to the audience I could be stressing over.
This feels just like a recital I’m not prepared for.
Everyone’s gonna hate this, and by extension, hate me.
Everyone I’ve ever befriended has access to this.
According to the internet, this is the most accurate representation of me as a performer.
Ohmygosh that piano is way brighter than I thought it would be.
I am representing not only myself and the studio but the entire grad program.
“Is this really the best they could get?”
(I hadn’t even played a note yet.)
All this over a livestream that had no more than 8 viewers at its peak and averaged around 3. I didn’t even really mess up that badly (not that I’ve listened past the first ten seconds). And this was for the edification of the entire class, not my own hyper-critical audition. Really, as far as career-destroying acts go, this was pretty benign.
I feel like I have so much to prove, like I have to be an immediately finished product. Progress is linear and if someone can pinpoint a weakness of mine that is a strength of theirs, I’m failing. I can’t let anyone know I’m failing.
I can’t believe I still think this way.
The best thing I learned from this is that I ain’t shit. And thank goodness for that. I’m allowed to be a work-in-progress. My mistakes aren’t restricted to the practice room, musical or otherwise. I’ve known and implemented this in other facets of my life, and I learn over and over these aren’t perfectly compartmentalized.
It wasn’t an honest performance; I held back far too much for it to be authentic. I guess if I can say the most embarrassing video of me on the internet is a bad performance, I’m doing fine.
I still removed the tag, though.