Tuesday, November 14, 2006

more from Buffalo

For the past few weeks a New York Times reporter, Daniel Wakin, has been working on a piece about the New World Symphony. We've been told it will be prominently featured in The New York Times Magazine. NWS takes this kind of media exposure very seriously, as I suppose we should. Before he came, the orchestra brought in a media-savvy expert to brief the orchestra on how to handle reporters, lead the interview, stay on message, etc.

Her basic advice was, "Don't say anything stupid" - or anything you wouldn't be happy to share with millions of NY Times readers. It seemed improbable that a big-city reporter would even be interested in my humble life, but I definitely made it a point to come up with some talking points, some clever quotable blurbs, just in case I was one of those lucky interviewees. Then he left town, and I forgot all about it.

(all photos were taken today during my walk around Buffalo)

What I didn't realize, though, was that he was going to come back again. Dan Wakin's return was on the first day that we were playing mock auditions for Jeff Turner, principal bassist of the Pittsburgh Symphony. The other bass players told him that I was preparing for this Buffalo audition, and so why not cover my little audition saga? So when I went in to play that first mock, there he was, right beside Jeff Turner and Chris Adkins, principal cellist of the Dallas Symphony. Playing for those three guys was easily one of the most mortifying experiences of my life.

Strangely enough, Dan Wakin wanted to hear more, and he asked me all about my preparation for this audition. I quickly forgot the coaching about media handling and pretty much put my whole life out there for him to listen and take blindingly fast shorthand notes. I'm not sure I had anything very insightful to say, but I wasn't going to let that stop me from yakking away. Maybe what got me talking so freely was the way he was jotting it all down so quickly. Once in a while he would even ask me to repeat some phrase I had said. I don't think he really had to ask many questions, though. I just seemed to start spewing out every hope, fear, and dumb audition story I could think of.

Two days later I played another mock audition - it went better, but still not great. Dan Wakin was there again, and again he got an earful of all my audition neuroses. I travelled to Buffalo on Saturday, and he called me yesterday, after my successful preliminary audition. We talked on the phone for 45 minutes yesterday afternoon, and then again today, after my unsuccessful semifinal. Or rather, I talked profusely and heard him jotting down notes in the background. I'm not usually this talkative - by way of comparison, I had a phone conversation with my Mom on Sunday which lasted one minute, 35 seconds. All told I've probably spoken with Dan Wakin for almost 3 hours in the past week.

The thing is, I really have no idea what he might write, and I'm somewhat concerned that I'm going to sound like a self-absorbed putz. Actually, I'm almost sure of it. I don't think it's solely his interview skills - somehow the orchestral audition process itself seems to open up my emotions and disable my communicative inhibitions. Other people I've talked with shared this experience as well - though mostly they've found themselves opening up to a sympathetic friend or family member, not a New York Times reporter. Even though I honestly meant to stay on message, by the end of our conversation I was ready to tell him all about my traumatic experiences, career questioning, failed relationships - stuff I ordinarily wouldn't even share with you, my loyal blog reader(s)!

Which brings me to the point of this, my return to blogging: I realize I am rather badly in need of another expressive outlet. Music is surely the most glorious, expressive, and moving of art forms. However, there is a relatively narrow range of experience that you can convey in the bass part of Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice, just to choose a random piece. And I love that piece - I love listening to it and I love playing it. But I can't use it to express my frustrated hopes about auditions, my fears of abandonment, my concerns that my life may have shriveled to quixotic single-minded quest... Probably there's another piece that would work better, but sometimes it's easier to just get it down in words.

So I'm not going to shy away from the self-revealing blog entry, in this new incarnation of hella frisch. And though I'll try not to overwhelm you with embarrassingly personal stuff, I think there are certain occasions when it's better not to keep things to yourself. Unless you happen to be talking with a reporter from the New York Times. In which case, probably a little more self-reflection would have been helpful. Blogs are perfect for self-reflection, though, right? And you can even edit out the embarrassing stuff later, hopefully before too many people read it.


Anonymous said...

Matt, dude, befriending a journalist is NEVER a clever thing to do -- and I know this one. MISTAKE.

(Very glad to see you're back to blogging... but here you have control over what you end up posting, and there HE does.)

urn said...

I'm glad your back to blogging. :)

Jason Heath said...

Matt, it's great to see you writing again. I thought that you decided to hand your blogging hat up, but I just now realized that you're back at it. I'll definitely be checking in. Sounds like you're making the audition rounds--hope it goes well. Say hi to Andy down at New World for me.