My internal, frequently negative, voice is one that rarely goes away but I’ve learned how to ignore and sometimes even silence it. I’ve also learned to accept that it’s there sometimes and I live with it.

But the external ones … well … WHAT to do about those?

A good time ago now, I made a huge blunder (and wrote about it on this blog, in fact) in a concert. I mean HUGE blunder. It was so humiliating and embarrassing and weep-worthy. That was difficult. About a month later a colleague told me that her section was dissed in the review of that concert and one of the players said, “I think the reviewer meant the English horn”. She thought I could handle the joke at that point. I smiled. I pretended I could handle it. But I didn’t handle it well at all and it brought back all the pain of that concert. Every time I look at that section of the orchestra now I wonder which one said that about me.

Then, this past Saturday night, I ran into a colleague prior to the concert. He looked at me a bit askance and said something like “Were you happy with your solo last night?” (Friday was our first concert.) He then asked, “Were you nervous?” He went on for a while about this, actually. “I mean … you sounded good…”, he said rather hesitantly.

Well, that wasn’t what I needed to hear prior to playing the same solo again. I puzzled over what he meant. Was it not good enough for him? Did I sound nervous? Did I look unhappy?

These are not things we want to think about and dwell on when we have solos. WHY he said those things to me is a mystery. I don’t know him as well as maybe he thinks I do. Was he serious? Was he joking? I honestly don’t have a clue! I just know it set up major “doubt voices” in my head.

The solo went fine, but I have to admit the entire time I was thinking, “Is THIS good enough for you, [insert name here]? Do I sound nervous?”

That is no way to enjoy a solo. But so it goes. I may be used to be internal voices but these external ones? Doubtful I’ll ever get used to those!

Side note: speaking of those external voices. The very same evening of my HORRIBLE NO GOOD SOLO some years back a colleague came up before to tell me I was his favorite English horn player and proceeded to go on and on. Then I made the blunder. Since then he’s not only never complimented me, but has never looked me in the eye again. I always wonder if he just felt bad saying all that on my off night or if he’s not gotten over my bad playing. Funny how that goes ….