What is going on back there? I was in middle of playing an important solo passage when I noticed movement and whispers coming from behind and below—we were on risers a couple of feet off the main floor of the stage. Everything was going well—the stage was packed with orchestra members performing beautifully and there was a full house—but all of this peripheral activity was quite unusual. And annoying.
As I finished my solo and looked for the source of the strange sounds and movement, I heard the principal trumpet player whisper in an alarmed and urgent tone that his third valve slide had flown off. He had to find it before his next entrance which was coming very soon. If you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of the trumpet, the third valve slide moves for tuning purposes. It’s important to keep it oiled so it moves easily. I still don’t know what he did that caused it to fly off the instrument, but he was terrified.
But while he was crawling around on the floor, the music kept going for all of the rest of us. In fact, most of the musicians were completely unaware of his emergency. He leaned forward, got on his hands and knees, and crawled around on the riser level above the level where I was seated…then on the floor underneath…frantically searching for his third valve slide.
Remarkably, he found it with seconds to spare, and crawled back up on the trumpet riser level, carefully slipped onto his chair while placing the slide back on the instrument, and led the entire brass section entrance with great skill.
What made the difference between success and disaster?
Skilled artists are able to remain focused on the quality of each moment and its integration into the artistic whole—the entire symphony—simultaneously. They can be aware of all that is going on around them without being distracted.
Enjoy this success in your work and personal life—
- Passionately perform an assignment or activity, or engage in a relationship, with authenticity and sincerity.
- Participate, interact, and move forward with a well-defined purpose that is in the best interest of all involved. This gives you direction and structure just as in the ability to see the moment and the symphony at once
- Pay attention. Do more than just be there in order to receive instantaneous and valuable responses to your efforts. This helps you adjust to changes and challenges.
The situation faced by this trumpet player and the performers around him could have been disastrous, but no one got caught up in the anxiety of the situation. In fact, after the concert, we are all able to laugh (some more than others) at the predicament but celebrate an incredibly successful performance.