catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 14 :: 2012.07.06 — 2012.07.19


Swimming in satisfaction

While many college students go for the spring break debauchery, a more wholesome activity drew me to the Sunshine State: a bassoon audition for the Florida Orchestra.

Having purchased a professional instrument a few years earlier, I struggled mightily. The Heckel bassoon’s $18,500 price tag and its attendant monthly payments stretched me to the limit, despite a generous music scholarship. As I scrounged for empty soda cans on my college campus, I often thought to be thankful I lived in Michigan, the only state with a ten-cent bottle deposit.

Being broke honed my resourcefulness. I invited my mom and grandma to Florida to share the cost of hotel and car rental, making the audition trip just barely within my limited means, while still allowing for minimal sightseeing.

Traveling side roads along Florida’s coast, we passed sign after sign beckoning, Fresh fish! Fresh fish! “When we get to Key West,” my mom and grandma resolved, “we’ll order some fresh fish!” Indeed, they could not pass an eatery without reiterating their dream of partaking in seafood straight from the Atlantic, creating a soundtrack for the slideshow of restaurant signage.

Venice: “Fresh Fish!”

The Everglades: “Fresh Fish!”

Key Largo: “Fresh Fish!”

Marathon: “Fresh Fish! Fresh Fish!”

And finally, Key West.

Reluctant to leave my prized bassoon unattended in the car, I hauled it along as we wandered, Goldilocks-style, from restaurant to restaurant. One was too smoky. One, too loud. Another, too expensive. Hungry, my mom and grandma settled upon a restaurant that was just right: an ocean-view Burger King. In a striking display of irony, each ordered a BK Big Fish sandwich. I was appalled. They were satisfied.

I crashed and burned at the audition. I had dreamed of being a professional musician since seventh grade, and for years, spent nearly every moment of free time practicing, listening to or thinking about music. I enjoyed success as an undergrad, scoring positions in four part-time orchestras, besting graduate students from more prestigious music schools. But I coveted a full-time job that, in my mind, bespoke success.

Having failed repeatedly, I rejoiced upon winning a spot with the Omaha Symphony. The “one year, may become permanent” status never felt tenuous; my colleagues expressed unanimous confidence that my predecessor would remain in his prestigious new post with Sydney Symphony.

Months later, rumors swirled that he missed America. Yet, I had not properly steeled myself when the personnel manager approached backstage with what he considered non-news: “I’m sure you’ve already heard that Roger is returning from Australia.” I nodded, then hurried to a dressing room and sobbed.

Faced anew with the soul-crushing audition process, my husband and I crisscrossed the country. Bassoonists seem rare, until you hit the audition circuit. I came close sometimes and felt I’d eventually get another shot at my dreams.

When my husband and I learned we were expecting a baby, my mom urged, “Come back home!” And we did. Flipping through the employment section of the International Musician that hit the mail slot of our new home each month, we opted to sit out audition after audition.

Phoenix? Too far.

Richmond? Too far.

Buffalo? Too far.

My hometown? Just right.

And I finally realized, babe in arms, delighting in the presence of a caring family, what my elders realized at Key West’s oceanfront Burger King:

Sometimes we bail on our dreams. And we’re satisfied.

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