On Mondays, I meet with this singer that I’ll call Ariel. That’s not really her name, but that’d satisfy every inner 5-year-old Little-Mermaid-wannabe (that’s me).
Ariel got a perfect score on her ACT exam. A 36. Less than 1/10 of one percent of people score a 36. So now she can pretty much get into any ivy-league college of her choice (Stanford is at the top).
Ariel was elated, but also simultaneously disappointed that she did not get the role she wanted after her most recent musical audition, which is exacerbated by the fact that this is her last musical before graduating high school in the spring. I flashed back to a voice lesson or two when I was seventeen, disgruntled, and role-less (THREE. YEARS of musicals with ONE OR TWO lead female roles…I maintain to this day that our school leaders were closet masculists…that’s not even a word. But I said it).
I lent my ear, nodded when acceptable, and then carefully said some things I knew she needed to hear (I know I needed that when I was seventeen), but without perpetuating false realities or hopes. My, how the tables have turned.
I suggested she explore musical opportunities outside her high school, and said that as a music director, I would cast her in a second, which isn’t even a lie. She indubitably admitted that she much prefers objectivity over the subjectiveness of the musical world, and she’s kind of temporarily ruined for performing, which made me sad. “At least with the ACT score, nobody can say to me ‘I didn’t like the way you filled that bubble in.’ There’s one right answer, the rest are wrong, and that’s that.” I found that pretty insightful and wise, as I didn’t really learn how to deal with other people’s opinions of me until like…last year. At best.
Ariel is 100 percent right, though. The truth of subjectivity is you can’t really escape it. You will inevitably, at one point in your life, be turned away because you’re one inch too high, ten pounds too heavy, you sang that note a half-cent flatter than your competition, someone else put that extra tap sound in their dance audition and you didn’t, or you didn’t deliver that line the way someone else envisioned it. It’s all subjective. Except for maybe the ACT test. That’s pretty objective.
My response to all this, then, is best conveyed through the majesty of song. To all those high-schoolers out there: listen to the wisdom of Wilson Phillips and JUST HOLD ON for one more day. Because before you can say 15yearmortgage you’ll be on the other side of adulthood wondering what qualifies you to give advice to discontent teenage musicians. You’ll secretly seethe a little bit of jealousy and yet your insane pride you hold for your students will outweigh everything. That’s teaching.
Just you wait, Ariel. You’re going places.
Also, it’s more fun in the chorus anyway.
Mother Goose out.