Monday, July 25, 2016

Stop Fighting, Start Being!

Years ago, in my previous career, I learned a valuable lesson; to stop arguing my point and to just be as great as I could be.

When I was at McGill University, what seems like a lifetime ago, studying music performance, I was one of the very few women in Percussion. It was quite the rarity back in the late 60's and early 70's and a very difficult program to be accepted into. I practiced constantly so I could ace the audition. I had 12 years of piano under my belt by the time I was 16 and my keyboards were fabulous.

I was accepted into the program, however getting stage time was another story. You see, when I challenged my teacher on that and asked why I never seemed to get parts in the orchestra, jazz band or other ensembles, his response was, "You're a woman. You know you're going to get married and have kids and not make a career of this, so I'm going to give the parts to the guys who are more serious about their career. There are fewer jobs for percussion than most other instruments and I might as well weed out those who won't be serious about it at this stage rather than let them graduate and never get a job."

Yes, I have a temper and was going to argue with him. Instead, I asked him to partner with me doing sight reading duets on keyboards. He accepted as he needed practice as well. We booked a set time twice a week to play and when I consistently played him under the table, he started rethinking his stance.

I could have argued with him until the cows came home but decided that instead of arguing about not getting parts, I would be so good that it would be a no-brainer for him to give me a place on stage. 

Eventually he didn't limit me to only keyboards and I was an equal participant on stage.

You can get angry, butt heads with someone because you feel you've been wronged, or, you can be as great as you can be. If you do the former, chances are they'll never change their position as people become very protective of their opinions and positions. If you do the latter, without rubbing their noses in it, and show gratitude for them helping you get better and better, there's a good chance they'll change their mind as they had a role in helping make you great and are happy to show that to the world.

Funnily enough, after I finished at McGill and moved away, I got a gig in the orchestra and other groups and loved every second of it. Being in a world-class orchestra had been my dream for as long as I can remember. 

However my teacher's prophecy came true. I had to leave the orchestra to care for my newborn son who had mobility issues and a long, 19 year journey of surgery and rehab. Still, life guided me in the direction of what I'm doing now which is a gift beyond measure.

Fairly recently I had a long talk with my percussion teacher. It seems he'd been following my career in coaching psychology and was so proud of what I was doing. I'm glad we were able to have that conversation as he passed shortly after, but still, even now, I figure if I live my life from a perspective of personal integrity, I don't have to fight for what I believe is right. I live it. It's not always easy, but it's right.

1 comment:

Floyd Kopietz said...

Good post Donna. I call it back door diplomacy. I started doing this primarily because I don't like confrontations but I found I was more successful than people who are in your face with their demands.

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