Know when to fold’em.

Know when to walk away.

I’m sorry if I got Kenny Rogers stuck in your head. But this is not something easy to do for someone as goal-driven as I am, and I’ve had to do it.

I’ve walked away from my Carnegie Hall dream. I never quit. I’ve always met my goals. The only thing that’s gotten in between my training goals is a bum ankle. And even with that, I’ve persevered. I think I may actually be in good shape to do another sprint tri this spring, and I may even get to my half-marathon goal next fall.

But I walked. Why? I just spent one of the more miserable musical experiences of my life. I love playing new music and exploring new domains on my instrument.

And basically I’ve never had any issues in music until last week. I really don’t blame the ensemble, which is just getting started, but there needed to be some guidelines in place. We rehearsed 4 days straight, drove all over the Midwest, got tired and frazzled, and tensions mounted.  I found myself in some very silly situations where I had to justify why I could not make a rehearsal that had not been communicated to me by the directors. I was the only mom and definitely one of the more mature members of the ensemble (meaning age-wise, but take this as you like.) Some of the members and the musical director could not understand that this was not a lack of commitment to delivering the best possible product to our audiences, but rather that I have a lot of important commitments in my life, including teaching students that have college auditions coming up, seeing my son after being on the road for 4 days and seeing my sister who is going through some hard times of her own. The fact was, I shouldn’t have even had to justify my reasons. It was inappropriate and a waste of time. I proposed a compromise and rehearsed for an extra hour before the concert. But for some, it wasn’t enough.

Did I mention that none of this was paid? That I was doing this because I was committed both to the vision of the ensemble to share new music and because I understood the limitations of a group just trying to get on their feet?

I do not love being yelled at in rehearsal, or bullied into playing hard music that the publisher sent way to late. I don’t like being called “trouble” when I propose alternatives or compromises. I’ve realized that for 25 years I’ve either done pro-bono work with people I totally trust and work well with, or I’ve had a contract that has had my back. In all the orchestras I play in, we get our music in a timely fashion and are expected to be prepared, we have a set number of rehearsals that can’t be changed, we know where we are supposed to play and at what time, and conductors can’t single out individuals or lose their tempers. We in turn are expected to be professional and keep our cool. A contract permits us to operate in an atmosphere of respect and efficiency.

Ensemble Peripherie was not prepared to issue contracts. Because of multiple communication issues, I decided that I needed to choose between uncertainty and an unhappy work situation in the fall, or freeing myself from the engagement while they still had time to replace me.

After two other members left for similar reasons this week, I thought long and hard about how much self-integrity I would have left, how much I would suffer and lose sleep over future issues, and how much it was worth it.

It boiled down to this: Carnegie is just a hall. A hall with a whopping reputation. But at this point, it might not do much for my career. I’d do better to publish. Mostly I’d do better to surround myself with respectful, kind people.

I celebrated my decision with a lovely outdoor run in 40 degree weather. For anyone south of the Midwest, this feels balmy at this time of year. I also had an awesome swim with my new flippers this week that are going to make my kick super-strong. Between my workouts and a nice glass of wine or two, life will go on. Thanks to everyone who supported my dream, though!

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