This is an abridged version of a post first published on Andre Solomon’s website. Click here to read the original blog entry in its entirety.
At times, life takes us on unexpected journeys that challenge our perceptions of ourselves. I had never fathomed winning a national competition, as I was accustomed to feeling second-rate, having never secured a music competition win before. However, destiny often has its own script. On April 19th, I received an email: "You are one of the two winners of the competition." I remember the sheer disbelief giving way to excitement, as I jumped around my apartment, repeating, "I CANNOT BELIEVE I WON!" This electrifying moment symbolized not only the recognition I had long yearned for but also the realization that the unwavering effort I had invested was working. My heart raced as I confronted an overwhelming mixture of surprise, validation, and doubt.
Since my graduation from the Setnor School of Music five years ago, a persistent companion has been imposter syndrome. The relentless question haunts me: am I truly a musician? In response, I kept daily practice routines, maintained an online presence, continued taking lessons, and immersed myself in various musical ensembles. I even ventured into leadership roles and community service, yet the gnawing question persisted – was it enough to claim the title "musician"?
While it took me time to vocalize my identity as a musician, especially having pursued Arts Management, I now embrace it with pride. I recognize the importance of acknowledging one's own worth, a realization that surged as I stood among the winners of a national competition.
As a winner, I was invited to perform a prerecorded piece and engage in a live interview for the National Flute Association's virtual Fall series. The honor was monumental, prompting me to approach the task with intentionality.
The journey of intentionality began with selecting the piece.
I considered my aspirations:
To gain recognition in the flute community.
To amplify underrepresented voices.
To infuse my passion for ethnomusicology.
To leverage my arts administration background.
To diversify creative outputs.
To foster collaborations.
In my pursuit of a piece, I delved into research. The National Flute Association's invitation welcomed autonomy in selection – a canvas to paint my narrative, limited only by time duration. Like a trip to a grocery store, the sheer variety of options could be overwhelming. However, I discovered that within this vast array of compositions lay a beauty: the freedom to choose.
Guided by a determination to uplift oppressed voices, my exploration led me to the databases curated by individuals like Savannah Rose Ridley and Katrin Szamatulski, alongside organizations such as No Broken Links and the Institute for Composer Diversity, which brought me to composers who have faced marginalization within the realm of classical and contemporary music. These composers, their works often overshadowed by mainstream conventions, hailed from communities perpetually battling the confines of tradition. The institutionalization of music education, the codification of canonical compositions, and the prevalence of Western ideals – such as white supremacy, ableism, colonization, and male dominance – have obscured their voices. Yet, in these databases, their stories, harmonies, and narratives were waiting to be discovered and celebrated.
Throughout hours of listening and contemplation, I was drawn to the "Sonata for Flute and Piano" by Alonso Pirio, located in one of the Institute for Composer Diversity's online catalogs. Each movement resonated, unveiling emotions that were both exhilarating and challenging.
I recognized its potential for profound impact:
A platform for underrepresented composers.
An avenue to expand the horizons of classical music.
A unique connection between performer and living composer.
A catalyst for creative outputs, including an interview and a blog.
This decision marked a fusion of intention, passion, and representation – a powerful combination that resonated with me deeply.
With the chosen piece in hand, I embarked on a journey of learning its intricacies. I rekindled the discipline of my music school days, dedicating six days a week to practice. I established a practice journal as my compass, and embraced a ritual of reflection, marking the seventh day of musicking in a given week, that enriched my practice sessions.
Yet, this journey was challenging at times. Moments of doubt and frustration emerged, causing tears and self-critique that tested my resolve and tempted me to seek easier routes. I credit my teacher, Sarah, for her unwavering support. Her guidance wasn't merely about music; it was about self-empowerment. During daunting moments, I transformed negativity into positive action, crafting a sanctuary of positive self-talk within my practice space.
In the wake of this accomplishment, I find myself on the cusp of new beginnings. As I celebrate this milestone, I'm emboldened to pursue my musician's journey with renewed vigor. The uncertainties of the future hold a thrilling promise – one where authenticity and intentionality are the expectation.
This journey, filled with discovery and determination, has been more than a personal triumph. It has become a platform for representation widening the horizons of classical music, pushing boundaries, and embracing marginalized voices, and through it all, has forged a unique connection, not just with the notes on the page, but with a living composer whose work resonates with my very soul.
This process required much from me, but I'm happy that I undertook it with meaning. I stand here, not just as a musician, but as an advocate of diversity, a collaborator in innovation, and a believer in the boundless power of music.
Therefore, for those reading, embrace the rhythm of your unique musical journey. Take a moment to consider the notes that define your path as a musician. Reflect on the connections you've formed, the challenges you've overcome, and the stories you're yet to explore. Share your reflections with fellow musicians, friends, or mentors, and together we can build up diverse narratives that celebrate the ever-evolving journeys of our musical lives.
The road ahead is full of possibilities.
Click here to view André's performance of the Alonso Pirio Sonata.