I think that the incident has now happened long enough ago that no one (aside from those who are in the know) will connect this to any person or event, so here’s a little story for you.

I get migraines. Not every day, but I get them. They are the sort that cause me to put my head between my legs. They are the sort that pound, pound, pound and make me want to crawl under the blankets. And they are the kind that make playing oboe extremely painful.

Some time ago I had a double service day — two rehearsals in one day, with a bit of time in between for dinner. Dinner was great fun, as I spent some time with friends and all was well. Until, on the walk back to the hall, I felt a “bad one” coming on. Suddenly the head started killing me. I was playing some works, though, that required a good amount of oboe, and I was playing principal. So I wasn’t about to take off the rehearsal if I could help it. So I played. But the pounding hurt like crazy. So when I didn’t play I would lean over and put my head between my legs. We finally reached the break and I looked forward to just sitting and not playing at all.

Right when everyone else was leaving the stage, a musician leans over and says, “I have to talk to you.” (or something like that—none of this is verbatim). I was told that I caused the individual to blow every solo because I was so distracting and that if I thought the playing was too loud I should just wear earplugs so I don’t cause problems.

Well, I was shocked. I was so busy being in my own painful world I didn’t even think about anyone else. Selfish, I know, but true.

I tried to explain the situation but the person wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise. I kept trying to say, “It wasn’t about you … I have this migraine …”. But I don’t know that I was ever heard and meanwhile I was being yelled at. (I will say that this particular musician is often fairly volitile.) The person finally left. I burst into tears. I hate when I do that; I’m usually under control and rarely will someone see me cry. Between the shock and pain I guess I was more vulnerable than usual.

Of course my dearest friends were incredibly sympathetic and kind and told me the person was out of line.

But now it’s been a long time and I can think and ponder and figure it all out.

What I did was unintentional, but was distracting. I should have explained the problem to anyone around me so no one would think it was all about them. Because, well, let’s face it; we all think it is all about us!.

So I learned my lesson. Or at least one of them. There are so many lessons to learn, darn it all. But at least I’ve learned this one.

I’m thinking about this today as I suffer from this sinus headache. You can bet I’ll warn my colleagues about my condition before we play tonight!


  1. If you bending over was enough to cause this person to blow solos, I’m thinking that the real problem wasn’t *you*. LOL, what would this person do if something *big* happened? Completely stop playing? 

    What really bothers me about this situation, is the total disrespect this person had for a fellow collegue. 

     My response probably would have been, (waiting for them to take a breath of course)

     “It’s called focus, why don’t you use it.”  

    I once watched a director inform an actor, (who was behaving very similarly to this person except about someone coughing)

     “You are a *performer*.”  “Your job is to *perform* this piece, and  I don’t care if drunk naked dancing hippos careen across this stage doing Swan Lake.” “You *allow* yourself to be distracted”  “Now, how about you take some responsibilty for yourself and FOCUS!”

    I’ve never forgotten this.

    But mainly I would have been offended by the lack of respect.

    I hope you feel better!

    PS.  I just bought a book you might be interested in, it’s called “This is your brain on music”.  Check it out.  🙂

  2. Patricia Mitchell

    Yeah, we have to deal with all sorts of distractions, ’tis true. But I don’t want to BE a distraction, even if we should all be able to play through them.

    I think the thing I most want to remember isn’t the person’s response, but my actions. I can’t change anyone else. If a person is difficult, my behavior isn’t going to alter the individual. But I can certainly watch what I do and not cause more trouble than necessary.

    And while I do know the person over reacted and was possibly out of line, I wonder if I would have been annoyed if someone had done the same thing to me. (I would never have yelled at a fellow musician, but I might have secretly been ticked off!)

    In any case, what I’m trying to do when I deal with unpleasant situations is figure out what I can learn from them, rather than getting angry. Anger is more exhausting than learning, I guess. 😉

    Anyhoo, I appreciate your comments! 🙂

  3. “In any case, what I’m trying to do when I deal with unpleasant situations is figure out what I can learn from them, rather than getting angry. Anger is more exhausting than learning, I guess. ;-)”

    LOL! I agree!  I very rarely get angry.  I usually feel guilty that I’ve made the *other* person angry! But that is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.  ;-p 

    Of course, there is also the wide-eyed innocent response: “I’m sorry that you feel that way.”  <— as per a company mandated conflict resolution class.

    good luck, and I have to admit,  You are such a trooper.  🙂