“Have you ever sat down to practice and you felt so heartsick you couldn’t play a note? Everyone has felt a little blue from time to time, since ups and downs are a natural part of life, but strong negative emotions such as disappointment, discouragement and even depression can affect your life and your playing in a drastic way. Left to fester, these feelings can keep you from having the energy or will to practice, perform or play at all forever (a very drastic finality).
I bring up this topic, not because it is a happy one, but because it is one we all seem to have to deal with at some point in our playing careers, or with some other area in our lives and – I’ve just been through it. I had been working very hard on a piece, in hopes that I could play it for our local church youth choir. I loved the arrangement and spent many hours practicing. I introduced the song to the choir director, giving her the sheet music and a recording. She went over the piece and was very excited for the kids to try it.
But I was deeply disappointed when she said she wanted one of the choir members, a budding organist, to try to play it. I had to agree; I have been long associated with this choir, and I knew its purpose was to be an opportunity for the youth to experience the music of the gospel with kids their own age. It is not intended to be a showcase for adults. So, I gave my doctored copy of the music to the young girl, because it had all the fingerings and pedaling done for her; she wouldn’t have to turn any pages the way I had laid it out in the file folder. I hugged her and told her she’d do a wonderful job, I was sure of it. And I went home feeling very blue.
I felt, though, that there was something more I should do. Being a good sport is one thing, but I was still having trouble sitting down to practice. How could I make myself feel better, I mean really better – even happy that she is playing the piece and not me? Well, what if I played something else for the choir? Something hard, that I had been working on… something like … All Creatures of Our God and King? Now that moving pedal line had been giving me grief! I could use the practice with singers, too, I told myself, to see if the tempo was OK. So I asked the choir director if I could play it on the organ for the opening hymn at choir practice. She agreed, and not only had the kids sing it while I played, she had them get up from the choir seats and stand in the aisles of the chapel, in quartets, for a better mix of voices. It was very exciting! Especially on the Alleluias, which I love. And I went home happy.
I realized what a great blessing I had been given; sadness and disappointment vanished away in the blink of an eye. What could have snowballed into a full-blown pity party had just been melted down into a little puddle of goo to be looked at and stepped over. A good lesson was just learned in how to handle disappointment, simply by looking for a way to turn it around. I had to want to feel better, and want it badly enough to actually do something about it. Then I had to think of what might console me, and it helped to find something close to what I had originally wanted to do. After that, it was just a matter of taking joy in the moment that was given, instead of dwelling on what couldn’t be.
Now this incident was a small one; your experiences are probably more varied and significant. But hopefully you’ve found something here that you can remember the next time you are feeling more than a little picked on. Frankly, it has been therapeutic for me to write this article.”