Be Calm, Be Calm: Reflections on Concerto Competition

Two weeks ago I mentioned in my Hello, {February} 2016 post that I’d just auditioned in Hillsdale College’s annual concerto competition. I discovered the next day that I’d been chosen as one of the four winners.

You can easily imagine that I was thrilled, stunned, very bouncy, and maybe a little scared.

More importantly though, I starting thinking. I thought about how much time and energy I’d put into the competition, and about how stressed I’d been the week leading up to it, and how convinced I’d felt that I had not won after I auditioned. And about the feelings of surprise and excitement that I was now experiencing.

Something had been on my mind before I auditioned, and it came back to me now as I reflected. Oddly enough, it was this little moment from my one-year-old life, recorded on our “home videos” nineteen years ago.

Apparently, as a small child I had a persistent tendency to climb onto things and then find myself unable to descend again. Hence my frustration and hyperventilation — and my dad’s sensible response, “Be calm, be calm.”

I don’t know exactly why, but on the day before my audition, the memory of this video clip crossed my mind. I was nervous. I was practicing hard. I couldn’t seem to get my mind off the competition. I felt weighed down by the pressure of it. And for some reason, I thought of my one-year-old self feeling frightened and crying because I was a whopping ten inches off the ground.

Man, you know what, this is silly, I thought. It’s like I’m still a year old and freaking out at something that’s really nothing at all. I’ve worked hard, I’m doing my best, and who cares whether I win or lose? God sure doesn’t — He won’t think any different of me either way.

I felt as though God were telling me in a very sensible, slightly amused voice, Be calm. Be calm.

And I was calm then. The next day I went into my audition with wonderful peace of mind.

However . . . peace of mind didn’t exactly entail complete peace of body, apparently. For most of the audition, things were going smoothly. I was giving my very best effort and felt like I was playing well . . . and in the last line of my piece as the music soared to its climax, my bow grip slipped. I think my thumb must have slid suddenly out of place, because for half a second I thought I was going to drop my bow entirely. I managed to keep a hold of the bow, but I definitely dropped about a beat of the music as I quickly corrected my bow grip and found my place again. I finished the piece in a few seconds, starting breathing again, and walked off the stage.

I thought that was it; I was sure I’d blown it. I’ll be honest — even after all my thought about “being calm” before the audition, I was very disappointed. About ten minutes later, I was in my car on FaceTime with my parents, and I was crying. I knew I’d played really well for the most part . . . but I was convinced that the bizarre accident at the end had ruined my chances.

I talked with my parents for a while, my tears let up, I prayed. And I thought again about one-year-old Rachelle whimpering in fear at an imaginary danger. And God seemed to be saying to me again, Be calm. Be calm. This too — what I perceived as definite failure — was just as trifling and harmless as my nerves before the audition.

I really did feel calm the rest of that day. I knew I’d done my best, and I knew God was pleased with that. Nothing else mattered.

And . . . the next morning I learned I’d won.10-25-2007-11-01-28-125 copy B&W Talk about a roller-coaster ride. Now you know why I was so shocked. But apparently the judges had hardly noticed the fumble that had seemed so enormous to my agitated mind.

My excitement now was heightened by the very fact that the news came as such a surprise. I didn’t know what to do with myself most of that day, I was so stunned and thrilled.

But you know what I thought of that evening, when I was still feeling so elated?

Be calm, Rachelle. A caring, sensible, slightly amused voice. Be calm.

I breathed deeply and smiled to myself. Winning is just as trivial as losing, isn’t it? When it comes down to it, am I any different now than I was yesterday, before the audition or after it?

I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given. I’m still thrilled to have been chosen and I’m so looking forward to playing my piece with the orchestra. But I’m trying to take it calmly. Because in the grand scheme of things — in the light of eternity — these passing things, both winning and losing, have no power over our lives. I pray God will continue teaching me always to keep Him in the center of my vision and help me to be calm through all the little adventures that seem so big to me.

1 thought on “Be Calm, Be Calm: Reflections on Concerto Competition

  1. Dear Rachelle, This is the first post I have read. I just subscribed to your kittywham postings. I am so glad I did. Thank you so much for your transparency in this story. It is great you were able to work out your responses to these forces that do occur in life. Thank you for the reminder of these truths. Have a lovely day! The video and picture are very sweet.

    All the Best, Darla


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