My “Existential” Crisis

What a dramatic title, I know. Haven’t you figured out by now that I put my raw thoughts on here and just say random crap? I can be as dramatic as I want, or not.
Basically, not like I’ve never thought this before, but I guess as I’m plowing through my master’s I sometimes wonder if I was ever meant to be a musician. I absolutely love what I do and could not imagine my career focusing on anything else, but maybe it’s all a lie.
I often talk about how when I was in middle/high school and even undergrad to an extent that I always felt like I got the short end of the stick. Of course, my teachers would always try to be positive and encouraging and pull the “don’t compare yourself to others” card. I know I wasn’t the best player. There’s no question that the people who consistently beat me in competitions played with much more technical command than I did, but I still felt like there was value in the work that I was doing. I knew I wasn’t the best but I still practiced consistently everyday. I practiced and worked to the level of these “superstar” people even though I knew I wasn’t. I wasn’t about to be one of those complacent “I’ll never be the best anyway who cares” people. Granted, I know I should have been practicing more in high school and I potentially could have been a lot better, but I’m amazed at how much practicing I did get done in my crazy schedule.
Now I look back on it all and think that maybe not winning these competitions and not getting chosen for these awards was the universe’s way of telling me that I was not meant to be a musician. No one wants to say it to my face, everyone’s too polite. I hear of people at my undergrad school who played at an equivalent level to me who are winning the concerto competition and such. I should just let go of the past but it’s hard not to feel a little bit resentful. I can’t really help but feel a little “That could have been me if I was one year younger” yadda yadda. When I entered those competitions, I had to compete with really high level violinists and pianists. Now that they’ve won those competitions and can’t enter anymore, it opens up the floor for others, and I’ve graduated so I will never get my chance. If I was still at my undergrad school, who knows, maybe I would have been chosen, or at least been selected to advance to the finals. Or not, because clearly the universe hates me.
Now here I am in the final stretch of my first year of master’s. I have one year of school left in the foreseeable future. An Artist’s Diploma is not out of the question, but definitely not right away. I feel like I haven’t really accomplished enough during my schooling to go “out there” into the world and I honestly don’t think any miracles are going to happen in the next year or so. I want to get my master’s. I’ve come too far to just throw it all away, but is it worth fighting with the universe? If the universe, or God, or whoever is out there just really doesn’t want me to be a musician, then why am I wasting my time? I’ll never be one of those “superstar” players even  if I decided to commit to practicing 8 hours a day now.

25% Done Grad School

As you can imagine, my first semester of grad school went by like a whirlwind. I can’t believe I’m already 25% done, it’s going by too fast!
Of course, the inevitable thoughts of what the heck am I going to do after my degree are imminent. I honestly have no clue.
No one said that you had to have your whole life figured out by age 22, but I still wish I had more sense of direction. It seems like my fellow master’s colleagues have their lives all planned out, but maybe in reality they are just as clueless as I am.
Don’t judge me, but I used to think that getting into a symphony orchestra right after master’s was a reasonable goal. Coming from a small city where there are not many violists, I had a skewed view of the competitive factor of music. I thought that as long as you worked hard, you would eventually reach your goals.
Now that I have left the comfortable bubble of my hometown, I have come to realize that there are actually a lot of violists out there. Don’t get me wrong, I love having a viola peer group but there are only so many positions in symphony orchestras and sadly not all of us will get one. That’s the frustrating thing about a career in music. You can practice for hours and hours, work super hard, absolutely love what you do and still never get a job. Literally any other career path, you will eventually get a job after many years of hard work. I know I’m oversimplifying things, but that’s how it feels.
Many of my provisional post-master’s plans involved playing in a symphony orchestra of some description. Now that I realize that may not happen, I have no clue what to do. I don’t want to contribute to the stereotype of music graduates working at Starbucks, but I have to pay the bills some how. Freelancing scares the heck out of me, but you have to start somewhere I guess. I have very minimal experience in teaching so I’d never get a teaching job.
I feel like I’m not the world’s most employable person either. I spent much of my time in undergrad refusing part time jobs or teaching positions during the school year so I could focus on my personal practice. This is not to say that I’ve never had a job, but the jobs I did have are not necessarily going to look good on my resume. I’m also not bilingual, which can be a huge disadvantage if I want to continue living in Eastern Canada. All this time I wasted practicing to get a symphony orchestra job could have been put toward making myself a more employable person outside of the music field. I don’t even know if I’d be qualified for a job at Starbucks to be honest. They’d be like “Oh it’s nice you have a master’s in music, but you’ve never worked retail so you probably can’t handle the stress”. And they’re probably right.
Of course, one solution is to pursue a DMA or Artist’s diploma, but that only delays the inevitable. I can’t be in school forever. I’ll need to get some kind of job. I just don’t think I’d get hired anywhere and freelancing can be scary. Sometimes I resent being from where I’m from, and having this skewed view of reality for most of my life, but I can’t change that.
Another thing I also ponder is should I have done my master’s right out of undergrad? Obviously, as I mentioned before, I’m 25% done so I’m not going to drop out, that’d be foolish. I know some of my friends in 4th year undergrad who are taking a gap year and now I wish I explored that option more. When I was super stressed out last year, I did consider it, but I figured if I could push myself to do the auditions, then I could re-evaluate then. Once I pushed myself to do the auditions and got accepted, it seemed foolish to take a gap year. Now I question if it was worth pushing myself through all that stress. I feel like a much stronger person for not giving up, but at the same time I could have been using this year to get more professional experience and make myself a more employable person before pursuing a master’s. The trap with that I saw was getting too comfortable with professional life and never wanting to go back to school.
Ugh. Why is life so hard? Why can’t someone just tell me what to do?

Is It Too Late for Me?

I’ve invested a great deal of time and effort into my viola playing, especially in the past four years. All of these endless hours and late nights in the practice rooms, giving up summers to attend programs/festivals, giving up a social life to practice, all the emotional breakdowns, may have been for nothing.
When I was in middle/high school, I was never the best string player. I was always the one who sat around on the sidelines watching the same three people win all the prizes wondering when it would be my turn. It never really was. Despite being unsuccessful, I had a lot of genuine passion for music. I worked really hard and wanted so badly to go into music, even if there were people who thought I wasn’t good enough. I told myself that all that matters is having a strong, consistent work ethic.
Now that I have an undergrad, I worry that maybe that was just something that high school teachers tell you so you feel better about yourself. I legitimately thought things would be different in undergrad, but I feel like I’m really no better than I was in high school. I was still the one who sat around on the sidelines watching the same three people win all the prizes wondering when it would be my turn. I look back and realize how naive I was. Why did I think that everything would magically get better in undergrad?
It’s weird too, because I know for a fact I worked really hard in undergrad and came a long way musically and technically. I listen to recordings from high school and I can’t believe it’s the same person. Why am I still unsuccessful? Because the people that were really good also got better so there’s just no hope for me. As soon as I’m as good as them, they’re way better.
A good example is this other violist that I know. She’s starting her undergrad. She’s played the Brahms F minor and Clarke sonatas. If you know anything about viola rep, that’s amazing to be able to play pieces like that at a young age. When I was in high school, my teacher told me that I wasn’t ready to be playing pieces like the Clarke or Brahms sonatas. Even in first and second year undergrad! I finally was able to play Brahms E-flat in third year, Clarke in fourth year, and only now am I learning Brahms F minor for my master’s.
As you can see, she is much better equipped going into undergrad than I was. The level she plays at is exactly where I wish I was going into undergrad. I wasted four years of my life getting there. Now that I’m finally ready to do my undergrad, here I am starting my master’s. She has six years (assuming she’s doing master’s) of school. She’s going to be unstoppable when she graduates. I only have 2 years left. Even if I never talk to another human being ever again and practice 12 hours a day, I will never be good enough.
They always say sometimes people have success later in life, and maybe my big break is yet to come in 10 years or something. I don’t know what to believe. It’s just so hard to see all these people 2, 4, 6, 10 years younger than me that are so much better than I was. I honestly think it’s too late for me. It sucks because I’ve invested so much time and effort into this that it would be depressing to give it all up, but at the same time I can’t guarantee that I’ll ever be good enough. I can’t wait until I’m 35 to get an orchestral job, but expecting to get an orchestral job right out of my master’s is unrealistic too.

Is being modest bad?

Whether it’s music, sports, or academics, we are always taught from a young age not to brag. We are told that going around and rubbing our accomplishments into other people’s faces is only going to dig us into a hole. You never wanted to be that kid who everyone hated because they were so full of themselves.
When you want to pursue a career in music, this becomes kind of a blurred line. If you are too modest, you will never get a job. If you are too boastful, no one will care and no one will hire you either. How are you supposed to know what to do then?
For me personally, I would say that I’m too far on the extreme of being too modest. I think when I was younger, I was on the cockier (is that even a word haha) side of things. I never went around to people and said I was the greatest, but I did sort of pump myself up for competitions. In a previous entry I think I mentioned the concerto competition in youth orchestra where I was so sure it was “my turn” to win. Although I never really went around telling people that, I sure felt like an idiot when I didn’t win. Since that “emotionally scarring” experience, I think it’s caused me to be more modest about my abilities, almost to the point where I wish I could have the courage to market myself a bit more. If anything, I feel like I’m the worst violist ever.
I hate to do this, but the best example of someone who is perhaps too cocky would be good old violin kid. He actually really bothered me when he first came to my school because I was a much milder version of him, yet I got put in my place. The more successful he is and the more stuff he wins, the more cocky he’s going to be. It seemed that no matter what happened, he always got his way and still continues to get what he wants. Even when he has a minor stumble, he still picks up right where he left off. It’s just not fair how people can go on like this while I’m sitting here trying to play a C major scale in tune.
The reason why he gets so many opportunities and wins so many competitions is because he’s good at marketing himself. Even though he comes across as cocky and arrogant, he knows how to talk himself up. People know he’s good at what he does because he won’t shut up about it. When people think of a violinist, they will think of him. He’s a genius in a way, if only I had half of his audacity.
However, there are many people who play just as well as he does, if not better, that don’t get nearly the amount of opportunities that he does. Why? It’s because they aren’t as cocky. They don’t market themselves in the same way and therefore people just don’t notice them, which is quite unfortunate in a sense. The advantage of being more modest though is that people get to know you for who you are and not based on what they’ve been told. These are the type of people that I want to see winning competitions and getting amazing opportunities, but it rarely works that way. It’s always the cocky people like violin kid that really don’t need to win another effing competition but they do anyway because why would life be fair.
Oh, what’s that you said? I’m being a selfish bitter person? That’s the problem when I try to speak out against cocky people like violin kid, trust me, I’ve been caught in those awkward situations before. I’m the bad guy because I called someone cocky, even though I would never be so openly full of myself to other people. It’s a rough and tough world out there.
So, what can you really do? My best advice is to just be yourself. I know that’s something cheesy that mommy and daddy told you to make you feel better, but it does have truth to it. Part of me thinks that these cocky people are just putting on a show for others and not really being a genuine version of themselves. Being a true, genuine person will get you places in the long run. Being cocky and putting on a show for others might be rewarding in the short term, but it does not create long term satisfaction. People like violin kid thrive on the attention they get from others and that’s why he needs to keep winning competitions and getting these opportunities to validate themselves. He would be crushed if he ever had a “dry spell” like me.

Am I ready to do a master’s?

What a crazy and terrible thing to be thinking about, you might say. After all that hard work and emotional trauma to get to the position that I’m in now, you’d think that I could finally relax. Well, you thought wrong.
As excited as I am to begin this new chapter of my life, and as much as I think it is the next logical step in my musical training, I am a little bit skeptical of it, which I’m sure is normal. Part of me wishes that I waited until I was a better player musically and technically. My undergrad school offered a one year diploma program (although most people do it in two). Typically people would take it after undergrad while doing grad school auditions or use it as a pre-master’s program before starting the master’s program there. Occasionally people took it after master’s as a way of staying in school and taking more time to decide what to do with their life.
I considered doing this diploma program for a while, all the way until the beginning of fourth year. Once all the drama and emotional struggles of the school year kicked in, I soon realized that I needed to get out and that my time at that school was coming to an end. There was no way in hell I was spending one more year there. The only other options would be doing a gap year, or a similar diploma program at another school. I’m still at the point in my life where I need to still be in school, I need to keep studying and practicing. A gap year would not be conducive to my progress. I figured that if I knew I wanted to go for a master’s anyway, I might as well do it now.
Now that I’ve been accepted to a master’s program, registered for courses, found my place, etc., now I’m questioning if it was the right decision. I feel like I’ve always been “behind” or “inferior” to other musicians my age. I feel like only in the past four years have I started to make progress, but it’s not enough. Everyone else made progress as well and since they were already so far ahead of me, I will never catch up. Four years of good practice habits and a great teacher is not going to make up for 12 years of poor practicing and a not so great teacher. I only have two years of school left to get my sh!t together and then I’m out in the world. That’s scary! If things keep going the way they are now, I won’t make it. My only hope is to take an artist’s diploma (or something) after master’s, but after two years I might be done with school.
Where I am now musically and technically is where I should have been when I began my undergrad. It shouldn’t have taken me a whole undergrad to learn how to practice efficiently and address my technical issues that I’ve had for years. I came a long way in my undergrad, but it wasn’t enough. I should have started it the way I am now so that I could make some real progress. Now I feel like I could make some real progress, but I only have two years of school left. Whether I like it or not, it’s looking like I need to take an artist diploma if I have any hope of doing anything musical with my life. But there’s also that part of me that thinks that it may already be too late. As meaningless as university competitions are, I can’t help but think that never making it to the final round of the concerto competition was a sign. If I can’t even make it to the final round of some small competition at some small little school in Canada, then why do I think I have a chance at winning a national or international orchestra audition?
I think about people that I know that are starting undergrad in the fall. They are in a way better position than I am. They play at the level that I do now (if not better) and clearly have effective practice habits down to a science. If they can do that already, it’s scary to think where they will be in 6 years after they are done their master’s.
I used to believe that having  a strong work ethic was all that mattered, even if you weren’t the person who won all the competitions or the one that everyone thought was the greatest. If you were consistent and worked hard, you would be successful even if it took many years. Now I think that’s something that I told myself and teachers told me to make me feel better. I’m too far behind and I’ll never catch up even if I practiced 8 hours a day.

Drifting Away from Friends

 

Before I begin, just a quick update. I am officially done my undergrad now! Woohoo!  I got all my official marks back and everything. I will, at some point, do a more detailed post reflecting on that experience. For today, I wanted to do another off-topic rant post. I apologize if this gets to be on the lengthy side, there are a lot of background information and details, but I will try to summarize as best I can.

Basically, fourth year was somewhat challenging for me. If you don’t believe me, read anything posted from September-December 2015. One thing that added to the struggles were some falling outs with various friends. I guess you could say if this was ever going to happen, my last year was the best year for it, but it was still difficult.

First off, I had a circle of friends outside the music faculty that I’d met from living in residence over the years. As important as it is to be making connections with other musicians, it’s nice to be able to get away from them too. I always made an effort to hang out with them with my weird schedule, but it usually worked out. This year was tough though. At the beginning of the year, it seemed like everyone in the group started dating and most of these developed into relationships as the year went on. I wasn’t seeing anyone as I was way too stressed out to take care of myself, let alone be there for another person. As the year progressed, it seemed as if they all started to have their own lives/schedules with their boyfriends and girlfriends. I’m not saying that I’m mad at them for it, it’s just unfortunate that I was the odd one out. To be fair, I kind of had my own life too with my grad school auditions. In second term we hung out maybe once or twice. Whenever I had some free time I would shoot a message to the group, and I’d always get a response like “Oh not tonight, I’m busy”. Once you get too many messages like that, you just stop asking. I was hoping to hang out with them one more time before I left and so I asked when they were done their finals. They said they would get back to me then. I messaged one of them individually to see what was up and she said “Oh sorry, I’m at my boyfriend’s house for the weekend”. I understand relationships are important and take commitment, but a friendship is also a relationship that requires a certain amount of commitment too. You can’t always be blowing off your friends for your boyfriend or girlfriend, especially in this case as she promised that we could get together before I left. To be fair, we hadn’t set a specific date yet, but still. We could have hung out before she left for her boyfriend’s if she knew she was going.

Okay, that one was easy to summarize. The next friend and my issues with her could seriously be a novel (or two, or three). I’ll type as much as I can here before it gets ridiculous and if it still bothers me, I’ll write more about her in a future entry. This is also why I can’t ever share this blog with anyone who goes to my school (well, former school now) as things could get so awkward.

Basically, I met her at the beginning of last school year (September 2014) and she was a super nice person and we became instant best friends. She was very kind, genuine, and did really nice things for me. She said she was interested to visit me in my home town in May (of 2015) and I asked my parents if she could stay with us and they said sure. Things went pretty well until then, I didn’t really have any major issues, until she came to my house.

She’s one of those people that I should have seen the red flags sooner, but I guess I dismissed them. Sometimes you can be blind to things your friend says/does. Even before she got to my house, it was kind of sketchy. She was planning to visit another friend who lives in a nearby town as well. To tell this story a bit easier, let’s give them fake names. My friend is Jane and her friend is Alice. My friend originally told me that Alice’s mom would drop her off at my place on Sunday for whatever day it was. These were plans we made in April. A couple days before, she texted me and said “Oh, I’m going on a day trip to [insert town here] with Alice’s family so I won’t be able to get a ride to you until Tuesday”. I didn’t make a big deal of it, but I was still kind of upset with the miscommunication and I felt like I was getting the short end of the stick here. Alice was getting a nice long visit and I was being cheated by 2 days.

Tuesday comes and I go to pick Jane up and we start hanging out. The first day was great, we had a lot of fun. No complaints. The second day is where I started to get a bit pissed off. We were putting on a recital at a local church. She had played piano for me in my third year recital, so we thought it would be fun to repeat the program in my hometown and then she could do some solo piano stuff to make it a full length recital. I had taken care of posters and putting them up everywhere, but I hadn’t yet done the program. I wanted her help with it. We’re in my room and I open up my laptop to Publisher (It’s always an idiot proof way of making stuff in terms of formatting). She insists on making it on Microsoft Word and grabs the laptop from me. She had a very opinionated way of doing programs I guess. Every time I made a suggestion, she would dismiss it and make it sound like she knew everything. For example, I like putting birth and death years of composers, but she doesn’t. Then she put bios on the back. I had a bio written that was obviously way too long to put on the back of a program, but I was prepared to cut some stuff out. Let’s just say she beat me to it. She was all like “Sometimes you don’t get to include everything you want to include”. Duh, I wasn’t born yesterday. Long story short, I didn’t like how cocky she was being.

Fast forward to the recital.  There is more to it, but one point I wanted to make is how hung up she was on the fact that I had a recital for free admission the previous year, before I even met her. We did this recital as admission by donation, but she actually wanted to charge people (like $5 for students/seniors, $10 for adults or something). I did that recital for free as it was my very first public recital. I was doing it as preparation for being a performance major. I didn’t want people to be like “Oh, you think you’re good enough to charge money now”. She decided the best time to “lecture” me about this was at intermission at our recital. It’s like, yeah, maybe I should have charged admission but it’s none of your business!

Another thing that bothered me is how she just felt that she was entitled to go wherever she wanted and have me drive her there. I’ll admit to being a bit of a homebody when I go home, I don’t really go out anywhere. I like the feeling of not having to be anywhere after a long school year of running around everywhere. Let me also point out that I don’t own a car so I used my parent’s car to drive places. She doesn’t drive so I don’t think she understands basic vehicle etiquette, especially given that I was using someone else’s car and there were times where my parents wanted to go somewhere but couldn’t because they didn’t know if we’d be back, etc. There was one point where she needed to meet up with Alice to drop off some music or something and say bye for the summer. We met at a coffee shop, it was very brief but I was a bit annoyed. Alice does live out of town, but when Jane was visiting them, they did come up to the city many times and I was around. All it took was a phone call or a text and I could have met them for coffee/lunch somewhere. I get she was visiting Alice, but since she can use her time visiting me to visit Alice, why couldn’t she have visited me? She had about 2 weeks at Alice’s place and 5 days at mine. I call double standards. Maybe you’re thinking she’s closer to Alice than me, but that’s not that case (this is getting rather long so maybe I’ll have to include that in a different entry).

Here’s the thing that took the cake, and I’ll end this entry off on this. On our last day together before she left, we planned to do a little roadtrip to a nearby town just for fun. On our way out, my parents confronted us about use of the car. This was the turning point for me as I actually sided with my parents. I think it was quite unfair how we just went places and drove all over the city. She seems to have this idea that if you have a car (or a friend with a car) you can just go wherever you want. I think my parents just honestly wanted to get to know her better and do more things with her, which is not unreasonable I guess. They wondered if they could come along with us and I said it would be fine. When we were alone Jane just went ballistic. She was all like “I can’t believe you let your parents come on our road trip. I can’t believe it! It’s going to be really awkward then. We’ll just be sitting in the back seat and making awkward small talk with your parents. It’ll be awkward silence We can’t listen to music and sing along. This has never happened when I was staying with friend’s parents before. It’s all because you’re an only child. Your parents are jealous that you have friends and do things and so they want to join in on everything you do. You need to tell them not to come!”

Who. The. F***. Says. That. Like, I do understand where she’s coming from, but you don’t have to lecture me like that. It’s not my fault. I mean, a simple “Hey, I was kind of hoping that the road trip could be just for the two of us, is that okay with your parents?” would have been fine. I don’t need a psychological analysis of my life. Also it bothered me that she could have the nerve to say that while staying at my parent’s house. Excuse me but my parents let you stay there for free and provided a room and food for you. The fact that they let me have a guest was very generous of them as well, especially given that I do not pay rent to live there. You do not get to go into my house and insult my family and be blatantly disrespectful to my parents. Thanks to her, I may never get to have the privilege of hosting another friend at my parent’s house ever again as it was such a negative experience. I probably took most of it, but I get the feeling there were aspects of it that my parents weren’t too pleased about either.

I promise I’ll end it off soon. Basically, the falling out aspect of it is when I got back to school in September. Over the summer, we were both really busy and didn’t really keep in touch that much. I didn’t want to make a big deal about it. I guess I thought maybe she’d apologize to me in September. I like to see the good in people. I thought wrong. She still brings it up from time to time like “Wasn’t it weird when your parents wanted to come on the road trip”. She really doesn’t realize how much she hurt my feelings and I’ve never really forgiven her for it. It sucks because all school year, I basically held this grudge against her and every little thing she did just bothered me. It was hard this year, I felt like I was being so phony around her and in a way, pretending to be her friend. That’s not like me at all. Normally I never let grudges get to this point. If I have an issue with something a friend said, I tell them in a non-confrontational way or if I sense that I said something that rubbed them the wrong way, I’ll apologize before things get awkward. Not with her. She has such a outgoing, opinionated, and loud personality that I feel intimidated a little bit. There are times where I’ve tried to call her out on something small and she’ll get very defensive and go into her “lecture mode”. I don’t know how I would have brought up bigger issues like the ones mentioned above (and others that I might tell on a later date). Sometimes getting these grudges out in the open can strengthen the friendship, other times it’s the end. I wasn’t necessarily scared about her reaction, I guess I just didn’t want to make a big deal because I was moving away anyway.

Putting Down Others

As they always say “digging a hole for someone else does not make you appear taller.” I think as musicians we can tend to be very critical of ourselves, and sometimes our criticisms of others can be a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. Yes, music is very competitive and we always want to do our best, but there is a point where criticizing someone else really isn’t going to get us anywhere.

I think almost every music program, with the exception of big name schools like Julliard or Curtis, is guilty of over-admitting students to “fill space”. Universities and conservatories accept way too many music students then there are careers for us, but it’s not their problem. The school makes more money by accepting as many students and offering as many programs as possible. To the administration, you’re merely a paycheque (Yes, I’m Canadian if you haven’t figured that out). They don’t care if you find a career in your area of study after school, they’re just happy you took a degree.

Where am I going with this? Well, before I go on a huge tangent, let me use my school (that I’m graduating from in about a week) as an example. It’s a smaller school in a smaller city. There are some very fine musicians that come from this school that could have easily studied at a school like McGill, U of T, or Glenn Gould, but they chose the small school environment. There are also a lot of people who don’t play at a high standard and only really got accepted to the school because they needed to fill space.

I’ve mentioned this idea of “filling space” twice now and haven’t really explained it. At my school, I believe they accept 70 undergrads each year. That is a maximum number and hypothetically, if there were not enough qualified candidates they wouldn’t accept the full slate of 70 students. However, because university is honestly a money making scam, they will accept the full slate of 70 students. The university would shut down the music program if they only accepted 30 students each year if they could be accepting 70.

What does this mean? Well, a lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise be qualified to study in a university music program will be accepted into the school. Is it a bad thing? Yes and no. It does create extra, unnecessary competition. A lot of these “filler” students will end up being unable to pursue a career in music even though they put in the same hours of work as the “better” students.

That is a very cynical way of looking at it and I choose not to view it that way. I think that just because someone maybe picked up an instrument at a later age or doesn’t play as well as people their age doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be allowed to study music. They have just as much of a right to further their education as anyone in the faculty does. They work hard and practice just like everyone else. Although they may never become a concert pianist or a symphony orchestra player doesn’t mean that a music degree is a waste for them. The skills you learn while learning a musical instrument are transferable to every aspect of life. If you can get through a music degree, you can take on pretty much any career.

Back to the idea of “digging a hole for someone else does not make you appear taller” now. These “filler” students are the target for backlash and rude comments from fellow peers. I’ve listened to many of my close friends put down these students for no reason. I just think there’s no need for it. Does picking apart someone else’s playing really make you feel better? Just because you started your instrument at age 4 and someone else didn’t start until their late teens doesn’t make you a better person than them. They are just as entitled to learn. Maybe they won’t become a concert pianist but ever stop and think that maybe they don’t want to? Maybe they just love playing the piano and wanted to take a music degree before moving on to law school. You can’t judge a book by its cover.

For example, a good friend of mine was picking apart one of the violinists in the faculty. She said hurtful things like “I don’t think she should get selected for that opportunity, she’s not good enough”. She went on about how she can barely get through a piece, how would she do a recital. She was also very disturbed that this violinist was selected as a performance major. Excuse me, but what does her success or lack thereof have to do with you? Maybe she’s still discovering her instrument or getting over some mental issues, you don’t know what she’s dealing with.

Sorry if this entry is somewhat unstructured or going all over the place, but I hope I made the point that I just have no tolerance for putting down other people. I get that in a competitive field like music, we want to see ourselves in the best light possible. We want to succeed, but I have always believed that it is way more efficient to focus on yourself and block out others, rather than being so concerned with what others are doing. It is difficult in a competitive field like music, but necessary if you want to succeed. Trust me. I’ve found when I stopped caring about what other people were doing was when I had the most successes.