Something I consider one of my biggest or at least most influential failures is something most people probably wouldn’t even think of as a failure. My rookie year of drum corps, I joined mid-season and hung on by the skin of my teeth; people I still know from that year say they don’t even remember it but from my perspective it was the first time I felt like I couldn’t catch up and achieve at a high enough level no matter what I did. My second year I came back and was infinitely better, pushed myself harder than I ever had before for anything, and the group did worse taking 13th place which is one spot out of finals. In real terms it was still a great achievement, but I was crushed because I had put in my best effort only to find out I wasn’t good enough for what I wanted.
It certainly wasn’t enjoyable to go through, but the lessons I took from that were incredibly valuable; how to deal with disappointment, the drive I got from knowing what it was like to come up just short of a goal, and the ability to build a long term plan and push myself as I’ve continued in the drum corps activity. I also learned that in a group activity like music, it doesn’t matter how good I am personally if I’m not helping everyone around me and giving them the opportunity to achieve at that same level, and it’s an ongoing process for me to learn how best to do that in different roles and situations.
It took nearly 20 years, but this past summer I taught groups in both World and Open class for DCI, and both groups not only made their respective finals but won their class, including every subcategory I was a part of. While this was obviously very gratifying, a large part of that success came from giving our performers the opportunity to take chances and fail so they could learn for themselves what it ultimately takes to be successful. It can be just as scary if not more so as a teacher to allow spaces for but the lessons those opportunities provide are invaluable; in life as in music there is much more to it than a lack of errors.