Winning Isn’t Everything

by Cookie

Ever hear the expression, “be careful what you wish for”?  I am living that right now.

We have this thing here in Winnipeg every March that husband has come to hate.  It’s called the Winnipeg Music Festival, a huge competition for all disciplines ranging from flutes and violins to choirs and singers.  As a regular supporter of this event, it is a very busy times of year.  I have been competing as a singer for probably about 10 years, and have had students competing for almost as long.

You can enter as many “classes” as you like.  Each one is divided by era or type of piece for instrumentalists, and by language , age, gender and level for singers.  If you win one of these rounds, you go on to compete for a trophy and possibly some scholarship money.

I have been to a trophy round myself one year only as part of a duet many years ago.  And each year as I compete, I hope that I’ve done enough work for the adjudicator to recognize it and declare me a winner so I can go to the trophy.

And each year it doesn’t happen.

I’ve been adjudicated by some very helpful and wonderful people and I’ve been cut down by some real bitches.  As a singer, a big part of your “package” is your ego, I think.  It’s very hard not to take the disappointments personally.  It’s really hard not to feel badly when the performance doesn’t connect with someone the way you intend it too.  Because your body is your instrument, and you can’t go out and buy another one.

The trophy night at the end of the senior voice week is called the Rose Bowl.  I swear every singer who has come out of Winnipeg and gone on to have international performing careers in the world of classical music has won this thing.  It’s sounds cheesy, but it seems like such a big deal.  The night is held at a huge venue with a potentially huge audience.  Winnipeg has some amazing teachers and a great program at the University.  We breed some good pipes!

So.  Last week I had this student who won all of her string classes and went on to be the runner up of her instrumental trophy.  This moment was more satisfying as a teacher because I think of the partnership that has developed between myself, the student and her parent, and it makes me so proud of what I do.  This is how to prevent kids from becoming assholes, I think.  Give them something they can feel so good about, that makes their parents proud.  It was one of those moments I’ll never forget.

Then I sang yesterday.  And apparently I sang well enough to earn my way into the trophy round.  Pardon fucking me?

So now I’m in a bit of trouble because I’m kinda unprepared.  First things first, I have nothing to wear. In my 25th week of pregnancy, not one of my evening gowns is fitting over this kid.  I’m screwed.  My mother has insisted I go out and buy something, and that she’ll even pay for it.  It seems like such a waste, but you know what?  I want to enjoy this moment, and having a comfortable evening gown is near the top of my list.

Secondly, I don’t have a second selection prepared.  I have 3 days to dust something off and get ready to sing in public  Fuck me.  I have no idea.  My first instinct is to pull out the old tried and true Puccini that feels like putting on a pair of old sweats, even though my teacher doesn’t seem convinced.  My mother also suggested this.  And you know what?  Despite her crazy talk about shit that makes me nuts, sometimes, just sometimes, she’s gets it about as right as possible.  Because a mom just knows.

Thirdly, I’m ‘sorta not into it this year.  After all these years of wanting to feel like I was part of the caliber of singers that went on to this round, this was the year I said to husband that I hoped I didn’t win anything.  Because I’m tired.  Because I enjoy the whole process far more as a teacher.  Because I’m getting old.  Because my greatest moment of personal success came from a comment on my adjudication which talked about something I’ve been working so hard to achieve in my technique.  Because I finally get it.

Winning really isn’t everything.  Because in the end you are really only in competition with yourself and your ego.  And these days, me and my ego are doing just fine.  I’m okay with where I am, and finally feel like I can be confident about the work I do with my students.

Because really, I’m a winner every single day.  I am so lucky for the life I have.

So off I go to Winnipeg’s version of Classical American Idol.  Wish me luck.

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