Nar3: Japan

The solo
Posted on Tuesday, January 27th, 2004 at 8:31am by Brett.
(Tuesday, January 27th, 2004 at 10:31pm Japanese Standard Time)

If you've been living under a rock for the last couple weeks, you may not be aware that I joined a band here at Tsukuba. Current feelings about the amount of time it consumes aside, and the fact that I'll get no credit for it when I return to OSU, and the fact that I never understand exactly what's going on, it's been a very...hrm...interesting experience.

I had been purposefully (or "on purposefully"...one of my favorite Japanese-English expressions) putting myself in the last or penultimate chair as to not chance the other saxophones mistakeningly thinking I would want to play anything along the lines of a solo. My chair has always been a cosy one....nice and safe.

We're getting ready for a concert that, for those of you who are counting (read: me...counting like the DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS BABY!) there are 18 days left until our concert, which just happens to coincide with the day I'll run screaming from the band room screaming "I'm free! I'm free!!!" never to return. I really don't know what they're thinking, but they're still adding music. We just reveived two new songs today.

Apparently there is some unwritten rule that the Japanese all know that concerns where you get your music...they always seem to have it, and I never do. One of the other sax players asked me if I had the music, and I told him I didn't, and he said he'd get me a copy. So he comes back with a first sax part, which means I'm going to be pushed up at least 2 chairs.

I start moving my stuff to go sit with the firsts and the only chair open is the first chair, which is usually reserved for the best player...which I am not, by the way. There's a girl whose name I can't remember that is possibly the best saxophone player I've ever heard. She's absolutely brilliant at the sax, and is usually the one who plays all the solos in the songs. She sight read a solo that I still can't even play after having looked at it for a month. She's very skilled.

She was in the second chair. I went to sit down, but was going to ask her if it was ok. The conversation went like this. (<In Japanese>):

Me: <Is it ok for me to sit here?>
Her: <Yes. Are you going to play the solo?>
Me: <Solo???>
Her: <Yeah...It shouldn't be a problem...>

I opened the music to look at the solo. It wasn't hard at all, but still I wasn't wanting to have to worry about a solo...

Me: <Uhh...uhh...it's ok...you can do it.>
Her: <No..please do it?...> onegaishimasu
Me: #@%$!...
Her: *weird look at me*
Me: <Oh...sorry...#@%$!...Ok I'll play it.>

To understand exactly what happened, you need to understand a bit of Japanese language and culture. She said onegaishimasu, which I sometimes like to call "Pulling the onegaishimasu card." There isn't exactly a translation for this, but suffice it to say that if a Japanese person makes a request using this word, more than likely you're going to do what they want. It kinda means "Please do this favor for me," but with some stronger connotations that I still don't completely understand.

Most of you probably don't know that I get ridiculously nervous before performance when I have to play solos. A lot of it stems from my slight perfectionistic attitude, and general dislike of public humiliation. Some of you might even know the lengths I'll go to get out of playing a solo if I'm not prepared for it...

I took a class at OSU called Performance Enhancement, which basically boiled down to group therapy sessions for people who have performance anxiety. Probably the only person who can truly appreciate just how nervous I get for solos would be Mr. Hill. I usually have to do some of the exercises we learned in that class in an empty practice room for about 20 minutes before a solo in order to keep myself calm.

Yeah...I didn't have 20 minutes. I would be playing this solo in about 2 minutes, if that. When the conductor (with whom I happen have a personal grudge because he's a prat...and a meanie..) started tuning us, I immediately started shaking. The very familiar feelings of anxiety came back...all shakey, couldn't breathe, couldn't thinking, mouth was dry, fingers cold and numb, slightly dizzy. It's kind of cruel how exactly everything that you need to play a saxophone stops working when I get nervous...

I tried to calm myself a bit, but every single time I tried, a new worry popped up. I was sight reading this solo...We had already been playing for 2 and 1/2 hours so my lip was gone...my intonation sucks...vibrato! Don't forget to use vibrato...this reed is stuffy...this sax plays high A about 20 cents flat... It went on and on. Before I knew it, tuning was over, and we were starting the song.

I had about 16 measures of rest before the solo started. The song isn't exactly hard, but the meter changed a few times before my solo. It started in 3/4 time, went to 2/4 time, then to common time. When we hit the first change, something popped in my brain, and I suddenly was completely unable to read music. I have been reading music for 13 years (OLD! I'm old!) so that was something that just shouldn't happen.

Nothing like it has happened before. I literally could not understand what the numbers, black dots and lines, and funny symbols on the sheet meant. While the band was playing the accompaniment to what should have been my solo, I sat there dry-mouthed and confused until the conductor stopped, gave me a smug look, and said "Again, from the top. Do try to come in this time..."

We started again, and I managed to come in at the right time. It wasn't good at all. I'd be embarassed if Mr. Hill heard it, but at least it came out. Luckily, I had another chance, and it got even better. Next time we play it, hopefully I'll be able to improve even more. I'm must hoping I won't get that nervous for the concert.

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Ehh.... by Brett [2004/28/01 08:51 ET]
I've taken a special 10 week course for this very thing...

It was just the sudden kinda...springing of it on me that really got me worked up....

Imagine by Pete [2004/28/01 04:30 ET]
I don't often get nervous before a performance anymore, but when I did, tried to imagine that I was at home, playing my drums or singing in my bedroom. I dunno if it'll work for you, but I found that it was quite helpful :)
Recording by Brett [2004/27/01 19:51 ET]
I asked about that a while back, and was told that someone will be recording it, and we'll all probably get tapes of it...
This is your mother speaking!!! by mom [2004/27/01 12:19 ET]
How dare that girl not move over!!! But...ahh, you knew this was coming, I know what you are capable of when you push yourself or as in this case, are pushed. With only 18 days left until the concert and you're done, why not go out with a bang? Chances are you'll never see these people again. Give it your best, all out attempt and mark it down to experience in a Japanese Concert Band. I have every confidence that you'll be fine. BTW can you get a recording of this concert? At least the solo? XOXOXO
hang in there... by ted [2004/27/01 09:00 ET]
i know how you get about the solo thing and all i can say is... if you weren't good enough, then you wouldn't still be in the school of music at OSU... you can do it... just tell your brain to stop popping and from now on... don't speak to anyone at band and never change seats... hehehe...