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May 14 2007

Batting a thousand

The big sports news in Denver this weekend has been the Rockies player who briefly touched a .400 hitting average. Now, I’m enough of a baseball fan to know what a big deal this is, but I can’t help but think:

1. Baseball exists solely to teach statistics to young boys.

2. Musicians are really getting the short end of the stick.

If I only got a “hit” four out of ten times, I never would have gotten into music school, never have gotten a gig, and my career would have been repeating “would you like fries with that?” over and over. I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” Well, musicians have another: “You’re only as good as your last performance.” Imagine that pressure, essentially having to make a first impression every single time you open your flute case. Give me another profession where you are expected to be absolutely perfect every moment you’re at work. Car makers are ecstatic at about 70%, doctors have malpractice insurance for a reason, and every teacher has had to fail a kid at one time or another. But if you go to a concert and one of the musicians gaks (and yes, that is an actual musician word!), you’re talking about that, the concert reviewer devotes a whole column to it, and the musician drowns his sorrows after the concert. Oh, and the bootleg recording of the concert becomes part of the “musicians’ gaks” collection every musician emails to one another. We are expected to be perfect, always perfect.

It’s a hard way to live, especially when it oozes out into other aspects of your life. I struggle against my perfectionism every day. It’s bad enough to be naturally perfectionistic, but then to train yourself in perfectionism for many years…well, detox is a bitch. My poor sons. A loves the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” He picked that up somewhere else, he never heard it from me. I prefer, “Practice makes better,” because, again, I’m trying to get out of the perfectionism trap. And struggling for that elusive “perfect” is a one-way ticket to insanity. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt. I think the pendulum has swung too far the other way, though. In trying to reduce perfectionism, I’ve swung over to “don’t give a damn.” Time to swing back a bit.

I don’t mean to reduce the achievement of hitting .400, I really do know how important that is. But I’m tired of musicians being pretty much passed over when it comes to achievement. We work damned hard and only get noticed when we fail to reach perfection…or if there’s a fight in the balcony during a concert.

Come to think of it, I guess it was good training for being a mom.

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