My niece played with the Terman Band at Gunn High School tonight. She is eleven years old and started playing the saxophone this year. The concert began with the sixth graders, continued with the higher Terman grades and ended with Gunn’s upper-grades band.
I thought: I wish Uri had come. In the front, several kids played the clarinet, one of the two instruments he plays. Off to one side, two girls played the bass clarinet, the instrument he wished to study (his hands are still too small to reach the bottom notes). There were trumpets and trombones, a percussionist, flutists and even a few tuba players.
I thought: I wish Uri would want to join the Hausner band. I wish for him the experience of feeling his notes merging in with the music, melting in to create one harmony. Sitting in the audience this evening, I felt moved by the power this group of musicians generated as each freely gave his or her part for the whole.
I personally am not a good group player. As a singer, I have never been able to let my voice join in with other people’s. I feel off tune when I sing with anyone else. I feel that I cannot merge in, that everybody can hear me. I like to say that I’m a soloist at heart, but I think underneath is a double fear: the fear of not fitting in and the fear that if I tried to sing with other people, I would discover I was not as good as I thought.
Not trying allows me to stay with the dream of being best without having to prove myself either right or wrong. I refrain from putting myself in a position that might bring me into comparison with others, not just because I know it is bad to compare, but because I’m afraid I would still do it and come out missing. It’s a cycle I don’t quite know how to avoid. After all, even a soloist needs to work with an orchestra.
Perhaps it is not necessary to be as afraid of comparison as I am, as long as the knowledge that “I am who I am and that’s okay” balances out the wish to achieve perfection. Perhaps comparison is the path to improvement. If I do not see someone better than me, how would I get better? If no one is more creative, why be creative?
I think maybe it is a balanced comparison which ultimately inspires us. I may be found lacking if by chance you decide to size me up next to Ursula K. LeGuin or Orson Scott Card, but if of all the writers in the world, those two are the ones similar enough to be used as my measuring stick, I think I’ll be feeling just fine.