I suppose nobody’s life feels ‘normal.’ In that sense, I am normal. As a kid, I never believed that I was good enough at the piano to quite ‘make it’ yet could never quite stop trying to make it. I was afraid of performing for the memory slips I knew I’d have yet unable to keep myself from signing up for every recital and competition possible. The idea of going to music school petrified and thrilled me in many of the same ways. My thoughts on the topic were something like this: “They will tell me that I’m not good enough and it will make me want to prove them wrong.” Little did I know that I was the one in dire need to be proven wrong.
At the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, I was met with a rude awakening to a much kinder reality. Rather than being forced me to fit into a ‘classical pianist’ mold, I was encouraged to embrace my ‘disadvantages’ as strengths and to explore a broad palate of interests beyond my area of focus. Among these were various musical genres and collaborative forms, creative writing, the applications of neuroscience in piano playing, political science, health and nutrition, musical entrepreneurship, and marketing. Many of these curiosities were satiated while others found a place as steady hobbies. My interest in entrepreneurship and marketing, however, only grew as it was fed. It wasn’t long before this curiosity had blossomed into the burning desire to start a business. I barreled ahead with hours of independent research, endless brainstorming (daydreaming), and occasional ‘business pitches’ to just about anybody who could tolerate to listen.
It wasn’t long before my time at Frost began threatening its extinction. Unsure of my next step, I flew across the country in search for my next piano teacher. I was delighted to find not one, but many amazing teachers and opportunities which promised a bright future. This search, however, brought me face-to-face with the gnawing internal realization that the conservatory dream I had worked so hard to earn belonged to a path I had abandoned some time ago. “If not that, then what?” I had no idea.
It didn’t take too much research to realize that my options for studying business and piano at a high level simultaneously were rather slim. So, I looked to my soon-to-be alma mater for the solution to this wacky situation of mine. A meeting later, I was assured that Frost’s Music Business and Entertainment Industries Master’s Degree (MBEI) would work for me. Taking advantage of the highly adaptable nature of the degree, I’d be able to take piano lessons, work with the music business department’s roster of industry-proven faculty members, and have access to many of the University of Miami Business School’s specialized marketing and business courses. Best of all, none of this would come at a cost to the final (very crucial) ingredient necessary in my wild degree: a credit load small enough to allow time for serious practicing. I couldn’t have imagined a better prospect, much less found one elsewhere.
This past week, when I began working on setting up the semester’s class schedule with my advisor, I encountered many unexpected glitches and obstacles which began bleeding dangerously close to looming deadlines. Out of the country and unable to act as I would have otherwise, I resorted to believing that beyond our misunderstandings lay an insurmountable mine of empty promises about this ‘dream degree’. I accepted doom and looked to Facebook to vent my frustration. It wasn’t long, however, until I realized (rather painfully if you ask my ego) that these obstacles had solutions and that, behind those, lay the untouched reality of my wacky MBEI degree.
On the other hand, my post travelled far beyond the ‘friends-only’ privacy setting I had destined it to. The cause of this is not one I intend to dwell on. Rather, I have found myself incredibly grateful for those who offered me a helping hand and a concerned ear. I am even more grateful for many others who had the courage to bring me the reproach I deserved.
Beyond the cloud of disappointment and self-imposed humiliation this situation brought, I was met with a choice. I could choose to learn from this experience or dig my feet further into the ground and look everywhere but at my own flaws. You can guess what I did. Here’s what I learned:
1. Humility and patience leave, in their absence, a sort of blindness to their absence. Only a habitual sort of ‘maintenance check’ can guard against this human tendency and the equally human tendency to fall flat on one’s face.
2. One should, in every circumstance, pursue any and every means of private communication available before contemplating a next step.
3. Given the human tendency towards frequent error, an honest and humble examination of one’s actions and an open admittance of one’s faults will, regardless of circumstance, be the best choice.
I can’t wait to get to school.