Sunday, September 20, 2009

Practicum #2

The morning of the practicum, right after practicing my walk for Hineni in my robe and shoes. I was worried about tripping and falling on my face, which THANK GOD did not happen. Thanks, Faith, for the picture!

I think I am beginning to understand the many purposes of student practica. Yes, we learn new and different music and share it with the student community. Yes, we have the opportunity to sing for and receive constructive criticism from some of the greatest cantorial minds in the Jewish world (both the SSM faculty AND our student colleagues.) And yes, we have the chance to show off our voices, chazzanut, and other cantorial skills for a crowd who can truly appreciate them.

From this practicum, however, I learned a very unexpected lesson on perspective. I learned that sometimes, sweating the small stuff is stupid, vain and unnecessary.

This practicum was put together quickly, went through several musical and liturgical changes, and contained a lot of big, challenging music. It was not even close to being executed perfectly. There were choreography mistakes, wrong notes, vocal issues, and a few word-jumbles. When the practicum was over and it was Julia's turn to sing, I sat down feeling deflated, thinking of what I would say at the review to defend myself and the mistakes that I made. I was trying not to cry as I mentally prepared myself to take the criticism I thought was coming my way from a room of tough critics.

When Julia was finished, we all got up and made our way downstairs. 20 minutes of compliments and beautifully positive remarks later, I made it to the table in the CL. Person after person stopped me to tell me how touching the practicum was, how beautifully I sang, how interesting and exciting my program was.

Singing Avinu Malkeinu at the ark, with Elana (left) and Michelle (right) serving as my ark-openers.

In the review itself, the only negative feedback was that I sang "too beautifully for chazzanut" (a fair criticism) and that I could have taken more time in certain places. The rest of my review time was filled with compliments on my congregational involvement, my cantorial presence and my vocal growth over the last 2 years. In the days that followed, I continued to get positive feedback from my classmates and teachers...even the maintenance man in charge of video taping--who normally sleeps through our practica--had nice things to say.

I'm not telling you any of this to brag. I'm saying it because I was blown away by how I paid so much attention to the 3 notes I sang incorrectly, the one time I forgot to turn the right way, and the 2 small mistakes in my written program--and paid absolutely NO attention to the millions of things I did WELL. It surprised me in the most remarkable way how the only person who seemed to notice my "glaring" mistakes was ME, and how all of the things I did well completely overshadowed all of the things I did wrong.

It feels strange for me to say that this was a lesson in humility, but it was. Human beings--even those of us who take the road to Clergyville, USA--are allowed to make mistakes. We are even allowed to acknowledge that those mistakes can create something wholly special and unique. Dwelling on silly "oops" moments only detracts from life's otherwise perfect experiences. This practicum taught me the value of being gentle with myself and allowing myself to let go of those silly moments that really don't matter. Life is far too precious to marinate ourselves in our shortcomings.

Singing the Levitt HHD Kiddush, the last piece of my program--partially relieving, partially terrifying.

This practicum was a beautiful gift and lesson that happened to take place right in the middle of the month of Elul. What an incredible moment to stop and think about the mistakes in life that really matter and how to fix them, along with the mistakes that don't matter and how to let them go. Maybe it's the forgiveness--of self and others--that gives us the space inside to allow more beauty and positivity into our lives.

Sounds like a good goal for 5770, huh?

1 comment:

Carol said...

We are generally our own biggest critics. Revel in the good, Tracy. Glad it went so well.