A very hard word to hear is, "No".
I have heard "No" a lot. I have watched others face some No's as well. It's not fun. You have a dream or a goal you want to achieve. You approach a superior or a gatekeeper to your next step in the journey, hopeful and energized. And then you hear it: "No". A flat out refusal for what you want to do.
Sometimes you get a "No" quickly and right off the bat. You refocus, readjust, and move forward. Sometimes, though, you hear "No" over and over and over again. You work hard, and are denied repeatedly and what would seem consistently.
Have you been there? I have.
I've been turned down for lesson teacher positions. My resume has been rejected for a few orchestral auditions. Actually, I have yet to win a professional orchestral position. A few years ago I applied to do a PhD and was not accepted into the doctorate program at that university. In high school, I begged a teacher to not fail me during marching season, so I wouldn't lose my position as drum major. She said No.
I've seen similar things happen to my musical friends and colleagues. What's particularly hard for me is to watch my students get rejected as well. My students work diligently for months in a practice room, and yet get passed over for first chair, placement in the top band, Region, Area, State, etc. Then they ask me, "What happened? I worked so hard..."
My kids ask me why they didn't 'make it' in their audition. It's a hard question to answer sometimes. What is the explanation for any of the No's we hear? Sometimes we don't get an explanation. Sometimes it's not the right time. Sometimes you're not the right person or in the right place of your development.
This is a lesson necessary for us to learn, and I've ended up learning this later in life. My musical pursuit was quite easy in the beginning. I was the one of the best musicians around in my formative years. Honestly, I assumed it would always be that way. Ever since I got to SMU as an undergrad though, I have been learning that things don't come so easily. At 30 years of age, I'm learning how to respond when things don't go the way I want them to.
So I say now, remember to respond well. I have a fantastic interview coming up with a musician who has been through a lot of physical turmoil, and yet she is still a successful horn player in the Dallas area. When I asked her about her struggle and the possibility of giving up, she replied, 'Well, I wasn't going to sit around and cry about it. There really is no sense in that.'
Truly, there isn't any sense in it. Get your No, pick yourself up, and try again. Keep trying until you bust through to the other side.
Here is what I've found:
After looking at all the rejection in my life, I couldn't help but think about the things I have actually achieved. Two degrees, living abroad, recording for and touring with one of my musical heroes, composing for film, overcoming some performance anxieties, building a studio of students to the point where I couldn't keep up with the numbers anymore, meeting new people, making fast friends, gigging in all sorts of places and environments.
Sure. I got turned down once, but so many other wonderful things did happen in the meantime.
A No will lead you to a Yes. Just keep going.
**Stay tuned for my interview with my good friend Katie Wolber! Coming later this week!**