Finding gratitude in uncertainty. Letting go of expectations. Learning how to 'begin again' when life throws you a year like no other. What I've learned launching a conducting business in a year when conducting as we knew it ceased to exist.
Today, December 9 2020, is Conducting Artistry's 1st Birthday. One year ago today, on a hot Melbourne afternoon, we had a party and this website was launched into the world.
At that moment I could hardly have foreseen the year that lay ahead - none of us could.
Like you, this year I have spent the least time ever standing in front of an ensemble. The least time doing what is familiar, comfortable, what I know I do well - rehearsing and performing as a conductor and teacher. In 2020 I've done the least conducting since I first picked up a baton 17 years ago.
This year, conducting as we superficially know it has seemed less and less relevant, while connecting with our musicians and nurturing hope, wellbeing and courage has become more important than ever. We've had to rethink what rehearsals are for, why we perform and what meaning ensemble music has. We've pivoted our practices and learned on the job. We've had unexpected gains and a lot of failure, trial and error. The learning curve has been exponential.
It has been a hard year. I've gone through periods of optimism and "I'll use this time as best I can to develop my skills, learn new scores and improve...what an opportunity!" and even more periods of "What is the point? My work and skills are useless right now".
I know many musicians (and those in other affected industries) have felt the same. It's been a rollercoaster, and each of us has had our own special, personal ride.
What I've learned this year which has been most valuable is the capacity to 'begin again'. Before, I used to think that every time I didn't follow through with a plan (those New Year's resolutions are on the horizon, folks!) I was a failure. 'Just another example of "more starts than finishes",' I'd tell myself. And I wouldn't get back up again. I'd let that be the end of the story.
This year, through both necessity, and support of many resources and people I've been getting better at reframing those times when I fall. Fall short of my own crazy expectations. Fall short of what I think others are expecting of me. Fall off some plan I had (that no one else knew about).
And I've learned to get back up. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly with patience. When I'm feeling stuck down, gratitude helps. I get grateful for the falling down - because it's an opportunity to practice getting back up again. And reinforce the new story. That when I fall, I get back up.
2020 might have felt like one giant fall for you, your musicians, your community.
For me, it would be easy to only see this:
Wherever you are in your conductor-in-COVID journey right now - whether you've been back to the music for ages, or are still off the podium - there's something to be grateful for. Even if there's nothing certain ahead. Even if you don't know when the next time is that you'll make music with others.
Today I'm looking back on one year of building resilience, being creative and doing my best to create value for other conductors and teachers. I'm grateful for the challenges of 2020 as they've pushed me to do things I never would have otherwise, even though they've derailed what I did have planned and halted or slowed down progress on other fronts.
In this crazy year, what are you grateful for?
What have you learned that you otherwise wouldn't have?
What has 2020 helped you value and cherish in a way you didn't before?
I'm grateful for all the connections I've made with with you and other conductors and musicians, through the newsletter, blog, podcast, workshops and webinars.
I'm grateful for the inimitable experience of in-person rehearsals and know how much I will treasure them when I eventually step into a room with an ensemble again.
Thank you for being a part of the Conducting Artistry journey so far - whether this is your first encounter, or you're a superfan. I hope you've found something meaningful and valuable as we've all navigated this unprecedented year together.
If you're getting back to in person rehearsals and looking to refresh your conducting and rehearsing skills and plan a great year of repertoire for your ensembles, check out our Online Conducting School happening January 23-25, 2021.
BIRTHDAY BONUS: Sign up before December 31, and you'll also receive a free copy of my Score Reading for Ensembles eBook.
Could two questions really shift the experience of your ensemble and boost their learning dramatically? You betcha.
There is one word that immediately creates division, disconnection and a power imbalance within our ensembles. And we use it so often on the podium, we often have no awareness we're saying it.
Are you trying to play catch up, or are you living in the moment?