I hate all the clichés and platitudes that sports announcers are notorious for using, especially when describing the Cinderella or underdog phenomenon. Can we be honest here? Nobody becomes that underdog or Cinderella by accident. And they certainly aren't there because of luck. It always boils down to how much time they put into their endeavor to overcome obstacles in their path.
As we enter head-on into "contest season" here in Kansas, I have to stop and take stock of where my students are in relation to where they were at the beginning of the year. Not just musically, but socially, emotionally, and mentally. And what a year of progress it has been for them!
The symphony orchestra is playing at a level I've never experienced in my twenty-one years of teaching. And, what's funny about it is that I am continually pushing their limits - dynamics, tempo, balance, phrasing. All of these they've managed to hone into some of the very best performances I've had the pleasure to conduct.
My younger students, especially the freshmen, have progressed in leaps and bounds, and have stepped up to the challenge of performing pieces that stretch them musically and technically. And, most importantly, they've done this while maturing, not only as musicians, but as people. As I like to tell them (and I do tell them quite often), "I don't care how you play, I care about how you ARE!" I want my musicians to represent themselves, their school, and their community with professionalism and grace. And they've risen to that challenge nearly every single day.
It isn't about me, or the program, but rather it's about the time and effort that each student has put into their own musical growth. Today, as we look toward state contest tomorrow, I am thankful for the students that I teach. And I am proud of the journey that they've made for themselves this year.