“If we were all determined to play the first violin we should never have an ensemble. Therefore, respect every musician in his proper place.” Robert Schumann
As we head toward the end of the choral year, it’s time to address a few Choral Ethics dilemmas. Today and next week, I’ll be sharing thoughts from a few ChoralNetters as well as mine about some universal issues. Today we’ll be talking about self-respect.
Jane* has been struggling like many of us during the Pandemic. During the time she was locked down, she questioned every decision she ever made. It wasn’t especially healthy. She soon realized the more she persisted to question herself, the unhealthier it was. Her self-esteem was at an all-time low. As the lockdown continued, she began to understand that if she wanted to be mentally healthy at the end of the Pandemic, she would need to do some work on herself. What better time to do so?
Self-respect and self-esteem came at the top of her list. She had always thought she was a bit of a fraud; others thought she was talented and wonderful, but she had doubts. “Imposter syndrome,” right? But more than that, not only did she NOT respect her own accomplishments but didn’t respect those who respected her. Like that old Groucho Marx joke—she didn’t want to be a member of any club that would accept her as a member!
Jane realized she needed to change her attitude about herself and others. Every morning, she looked in the mirror before she got dressed and told herself one thing that she was proud of that she had accomplished the day before. Organizing her piano music, dusting the shelves, or making a wonderful lasagna for her neighbors, it didn’t matter how small the accomplishment, she was PROUD and told her mirror image that she was. Then she gave herself a self-affirming pep talk and went on with the day. Gradually, she began to believe herself. Simple, and maybe even a little bit silly, but it worked for her.
Things have been getting better and better for Jane and believes that without the lockdown, she would not have gotten out of the rut she found herself in and she is grateful. As restrictions lifted in her area, the more she was able to get out, the better she felt. About EVERYTHING. She not only felt better about herself but about her colleagues too and was able to connect with a few and compare notes on lockdown experiences. They still seem to respect her, and she feels good about that and about THEM too!
I have had a side career of choreographing and staging musicals, here and there, mostly high school productions. I’ve enjoyed it, though I haven’t had a dance gig in about 15 years. One thing I learned from my experiences, both as a director and as a performer, is to understand “type” and not be offended when you are NOT cast in the lead. Everyone can’t be the handsome leading man or the beautiful leading lady, but they CAN have a wonderful juicy part, nevertheless. Playing a second banana can be fun and less stressful than being the “beauty.”
One of my most disappointing choreographing gigs came about 20 years ago. We were doing a Gershwin show, so much fun and the music was, of course, great. I had to really step up my game, since I would have to make 20 to 25 high school kids look like they could tap dance as well as the typical musical comedy dancing.
In the auditions, there were two girls up for the lead—a GORGEOUS blond and a spunky little gal. There was a second and equal part, not the female lead, but the spunk ‘lil gal would be PERFECT for it and she could really dance. When she was offered the part, she refused because she had had her heart set on the lead. The lead would NOT have been good for her—she wasn’t the type—and the other part would have fit her like a glove. I tried to convince her what a great part it was, but she would have none of it. And it was too bad because the girl we chose to replace her was not as good. I often wonder about that girl; is that how she lived the rest of her life? Did she only accept the lead and nothing else? How did that work out?
Every part is important, and every player deserves respect, no matter what part they play.