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Get a Grip
I peeked out from behind my eyelids and my blurry vision began to clear. My room was slightly dark, but the afternoon sun was cutting through my window curtain. I closed my eyes again to avoid the harsh light, and I let my mind wander. I should just go back to sleep. Maybe not though. I wonder what’s on the calendar for today? My eyes snapped open and I bolted upright. Today was the day of my audition for the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra. I flew out of bed, and ran around my room getting ready. Bassoon? Check. Black dress on? Check. Makeup? Check. I was ready to go.
After stressing out for a while on the ride there, we were finally at William Jewell where the auditions were being held. My nervousness was fluttering around in my chest, and my body just wanted to be rid of it. I started sighing heavily to try to breathe it out, but that only temporarily relieved my symptoms. As I walked into the building, a smiling short lady directed me to a practice room. I left behind my mom in the hallway, and closed the door. There I was surrounded by my thoughts in this tiny closet sized room with a piano. I couldn't help but think about how even though I had been seeing a counselor for stress, it wasn’t doing me much good right now.
I unzipped my bassoon case, and looked over the pieces. The rich dark brown wood with a familiar red tint stared at me as if to say “I’m waiting!”. I slowly grabbed each part, piece by piece and assembled my instrument. As I methodically put together the pieces, my mind wandered to what my mom had said to me earlier.
“You know Ellie, this is really important for your future. Nailing this audition could open lot of doors for you.”
I forced myself to stop thinking about that, and finish warming up. Thinking about the pressure of this audition would only make me more nervous, so I played a few lines and practiced running my scales. I didn’t feel very prepared, but I figured was as ready as I was ever going to be today.
By now, my nervousness was starting to seep to the surface of my skin. I coaxed my body to put one foot in front of the other, and move out of the practice room. The audition was what you call a “blind audition”. The judges were behind a white sheet, and they couldn’t see you. This was to eliminate any biases that could occur. I wasn’t allowed to talk in the room (because that could let the judges know who I was), but as I marched into the audition space I saw that there was no chair for me to sit in. I began to freak out, and was completely unnerved about the fact that I had no chair in here. S***! What do I do? I can't talk to alert anyone, but I also can’t play a bassoon without a chair!
The guy in the hallway saw my panic just before he closed the door. He grabbed a chair and brought it to me.
“Thank you,” I mouthed silently.
He nodded and walked out of the room. I then turned to face the white sheet. My stomach dropped, and I fumbled to put my papers up on the music stand. Calm down. I pulled the chair closer and cringed at the screeching sound it made when it was dragged across the floor. Okay come on, set down your seat strap so you can sit. As if in a daze, I slid my seat strap across the chair and let it hang. With my bassoon in my left hand, I adjusted the length of the strap. I then propped up my bassoon to slide the hook into the bottom. I let the full weight settle onto the supporting seat strap. My hands reached out to my papers, and I found the right page. My hands shakily went to their ready position, and I began to play. Slowly but surely, I worked my way up the chromatic scale. I botched the top couple of notes, and my brain started blaring alarms. Oh S***! I carefully came back down the scale, but by now my body had begun to betray me. My legs were shaking, and I was bouncing my foot three times the speed of what I was actually playing. I can’t breathe. I took a shallow shaking breath as I finished my first scale. I forced myself to continue on and finish the short minor scale.
Now it was time to play the piece that I had selected. I opened up my Weisenborn work book, and found the page of my selection. I took another shaky shallow breath and pushed out the first note, and the rest was a blur.
I ended the piece gracefully, and my nerves began to calm down. But next was sight reading. My eyes glazed over as I scanned the paper. You can’t play this well in just one go. This is going to sound awful. My body required me to start the piece. I squeaked and cracked, and messed up almost all of the notes. I held back tears as my fear began to escape from my controlling grasp. It surged from my stomach to my lips, and made them wobble so furiously that it was almost impossible to play. When it spread to my lungs, I couldn’t take a breath. Every time I tried to get one in, my body rejected it. It spread to my brain, alarms blared and I screamed at myself. GET YOURSELF UNDER CONTROL! But this was far from controllable.
It took forever, but eventually I stopped myself from playing any more. I swept up my papers, and fled from the room. My mom looked at me with a smile, expectantly. I can’t face this right now.
“How’d it go?” She questioned.
“I don’t wanna talk about it right now,” I quietly replied while straining to keep back tears. We shared a knowing look, and walked away from the people as fast as we could. As we got to the stairwell, she stopped at the first landing area.
“Ellie, what happened?”
I still wasn’t able to control myself, and tears cascaded down my face.
“It was awful. I did so bad.” I sobbed. “I started out okay, but sight-reading was terrible, and I could hardly play it.”
“Oh,” she said with a disappointed tone, “that’s not good Ellie.”
“I know,” I sobbed again. By then, people were starting to come up the stairs, so we made our way back to the car.
On the way home we discussed why the audition went badly.
“I felt like I couldn’t breathe mom. I think maybe my asthma is flaring up again. And my lips were shaking really bad. It made me sound terrible.”
“Well it is what it is El. We’re just going to have to wait for the letter. What’s done is done.”
Weeks later, I got an envelope in the mail from the orchestra. I fully anticipated a rejection letter, and had prepared myself for it. But as I ripped open the crisp paper casing, I just stared at the reminder of my failure. I opened the flap, and a frown settled on my face. I couldn’t open it by myself, so I went into my mom’s room.
“Look! I got the letter,” I laughed nervously.
“What does it say?” She coaxed. I pulled out the folded sheet, and began to read it aloud.
“Congratulations! You have been accepted as a MYO orchestra member.” I gasped. I stared at my mom in amazement. My heart expanded and my chest filled with pride. I never would have guessed that my audition could have been judged as anything other than a complete disaster.