We found out yesterday that our son Josh is now a full-fledged member of the All-State band!*
Josh with his beloved oboe.
This has been a long, three year process.
Back in 2010, my husband and son wandered into a local pawn shop during an outing. They had never been there before and never went again. But that day, Josh discovered an oboe for sale. He had been playing the clarinet in the high school band for the past year but was looking to increase his repertoire.
He paid $40 for his new treasure … and a love affair was born.
It was definitely not love at first sight, though.
The oboe is an extremely finicky and difficult instrument to play. He hated it at first. Then he heard his girlfriend play it and loved the sound. He decided then that he would learn (and master) this instrument that was capable of making such beautiful and stirring music.
He switched to the oboe in his high school band and began private lessons. He decided in the fall of his sophomore year to audition for All-States. He knew he wasn’t yet ready to make it, but he wanted to try.
The first audition did not go well. He was extremely nervous and when it came time to sight read, his mind went completely blank.
Still, when he walked out of his audition, he had a smile on his face. He was both relieved that it was over and filled with a new resolve to dramatically improve his skill.
A new goal had formed in his mind and heart: he wanted to make the All-State band by the time he was a senior. He threw himself into his private lessons and played the oboe in three different bands.
He improved in his junior year audition, coming within just two points of making the band. Sight reading was still something that needed some work so he concentrated on that with a laser-like focus.
He also joined our church’s worship team and was now playing the oboe in four bands. He relentlessly practiced his sight-reading and continued taking lessons. Our house was often filled with the sound of his music (which I loved).
This past Saturday were the auditions and his last chance to realize his dream.
I woke up and saw his stuff in the kitchen and had a nostalgic moment, knowing that this was it.
Next November Josh will be away at college. There will be no more All-State auditions after today.
But today he is here and the day sparkles with the possibilities of a dream being realized.
When we arrived at the high school and crammed into a crowded cafeteria filled with student musicians from all over the state. Josh was quietly confident, able to joke and laugh with his fellow classmates. He alternated between chatting, practicing and reading his favorite book, Catcher in the Rye.
When they called his name, he smiled as we all cheered for him, grabbed his music, clutched his oboe and disappeared down the hallway into the audition room.
He would later tell us that as he placed his music on the music stand, one of the judges instructed him to turn to piece #18 and begin to play.
Josh was startled. “18? You mean 19?” he asked hopefully. He had been practicing #19 for months, thinking that that was the piece he would be required to play.
“No, #18,” came the reply. “Please begin.”
There was a moment of sheer panic.
He had practiced the wrong music!
This was his last chance and everything he had worked so hard for was in jeopardy.
He would have to sight read. The moment of truth was upon him.
And he did it!!!
The very thing that had undone him two years before proved now to be the point of his triumph.
What a fabulous lesson for all of us!
Josh had a choice to make when he fell short the first time he auditioned. Would that failure define him? Or would it spur him on to make progress, to improve, to master the very thing that had threatened his dream?
I happen to think that just taking those first steps toward a dream, being willing to enter the arena — rather than sitting on the sidelines and playing it safe — is a win.
And if you find that you falter or stumble?
We all do from time to time. The only time failure is permanent is if you quit.
Failure is an excellent teacher… if you are willing to learn.
Thomas Edison tried over 1000 times to invent the light bulb. When asked how it felt to fail 1,000 times, his reply was, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
Whether you are still trying to find the courage to take the first step toward your dream or you have just taken your thousandth step, don’t give up.
The very next step may be the one that leads you to victory!
*This article was originally written/published by the author under the title “A Sweet Victory.”