The Synergy of Music

Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn? Please write an essay (250-650 words) on the topic selected. You can type directly into the box, or you can paste text from another source.

My fingers pirouetted up and down the fingerboard, spiraling faster than the notes running through my head. Every white callous and bloody blister had led up to this moment, as I could feel all those hours of repetition, struggle, and stumbling finally beginning to pay off. Approaching the most difficult measures of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, my body braced itself for an onslaught of notes. A tongue twister for my fingers, the menacing measure had always been a source of frustration and difficulty, a part I had always struggled to surpass in every single concert preceding this one. But even with the constant fear of my past performances needling the back of my head, I finally felt my fingers soar over the crescendo, tiptoe through the pizzicato chords, and emerge triumphant at the end of the phrase. I had done it! I had actually succeeded! But just as my heart started to slow down and relief washed over me, the unimaginable happened. I couldn’t feel my fingers.

* * *

IASAS was what my year of practicing the same song had been for, as I adored the pleasure of being able to spend five days with other musicians, all of whom shared my passion for music. I had chosen Elgar’s cello concerto for this same reason: to display my technical skills through one of the most prominent cello concertos ever published. However, my choice had initially been received with rejection. My cello teacher claimed that the song was too risky, since its modern aesthetic could be regarded instantly with either adoration or disgust. Yet, despite this warning, I persevered. Sure, it was technically and musically challenging-but how could I turn down the piece I had fallen in love with when I had first picked up the cello? In the weeks leading up to my IASAS performance, my focus narrowed down to one section in particular. Indeed, those elusive lines kept me awake at night, possessing my fingers to dance even when I wasn’t practicing. Initially, it seemed that no amount of practice could make the tunes coming out of my cello resemble the ones of Yo Yo Ma or Jacqueline du Pré. But after weeks of diligence, I became more agile, and the timbre from my cello sounded more confident. I took these signs as rewards for the almost inhumane amounts of time I had spent on those eight measures, and felt positive going into IASAS that my hard work was going to pay off.

* * *

Shaking from shock, I stood up and calmly told the adjudicators that I couldn’t finish the piece, for my hands had been seized by a cramp. As I fled the audition room, tears welling in my eyes, I reflected on what went wrong. While I’d mastered the section that plagued me most, I’d also made a cardinal error. Thinking that the rest of the piece would be a walk in the park compared to the tempest of controlling those short measures, I had neglected to practice the piece as a whole. And yet, I realized, this is how many of us approach life in general, concentrating on the smaller problems and thinking that by improving one aspect here, another there, we will become perfect. Sure, systematically improving ourselves is natural; however, it’s also important to see the larger picture. Had I simply played the song to master that one section? Or had I played the song because of its overall beauty? This was the question I was forced to answer that day at IASAS. Today, I still struggle with little sections. But at the same time, I’ve learned to never forget the piece as a whole. Whether it’s in volunteering, swimming, or toiling over a biology final, I maintain a perspective that never forgets the next note. After all, that’s the only way to keep on playing.  

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