It is the story of how I lost a competition but won the gigs. (And I am stealing Bear’s title because it fits too perfectly.)
This summer I was in Spain (which strangely was not nearly as hot as Switzerland) for a conducting masterclass followed by a competition. The music festival and excellent masterclasses were happening for a few years but it was their first year organising a competition. Knowing that the festival team was very small and that few people spoke english, I immediately offered my help. They gladly accepted and very soon I was called everywhere to help translating and to do many other small tasks, including taking care of the filming and recording of all the participants. I probably thought a couple of time they should pay me to do that, but no, I was the one paying for the masterclass!
I did well in the conducting competition and arrived in the semi-finals. Since I had a fantastic masterclass with a very good concert at the end, I thought I could go to the final. Unfortunately they had to change one of the pianists at the last moment (only the final is with orchestra) and the new pianist was not nearly good enough at sight reading! I was the second participant and it was a disaster… The most frustrating part is that he got better over time since we were all conducting the same three pieces! Naturally a lot of the participants were bitter and complaining. I wasn’t happy either, but I knew complaining was of no help and I continued helping where I could during the whole day.
Came the evening and the ceremony announcing the results. I still had a tiny bit of hope I could be in the final. After all it wasn’t my fault if the pianist was struggling and I had shown during the masterclass concert what I could really do. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t selected. The three finalists were all taken amongst the last semi-finalists, when the pianist got better. You can imagine the scene, some of the participants were not just bitter but pissed off, calling the competition a joke! I decided to keep quiet and asked the conducting teacher, who was also the artistic director of the competition, if I could join the rehearsals for the concert next day and help with things. This concert was the final of the competition with a professional orchestra and in a beautiful hall. It was my goal since the beginning and I had failed. But I thought the next best thing would be to be there and learn as much as I could from the experience!
The day of the final I spent my time bringing water and coffee to the conducting finalists, comforting nervous instrument finalists, giving them feedback about how the hall sounded and the balance. I also set up the cameras to make sure the participants would look as good as possible. At the end of the concert I was exhausted and just happy to be done, when the conducting teacher / artistic director came to me and told me he wanted me to meet someone. He introduced me to one of the jury members who is a concert producer in Europe and South Asia as well as one of the teacher’s best friends. I had no idea they had been speaking about me a lot! We started chatting and very soon he asked me if I would be interested in collaborating with his company.
Fast forward a couple of weeks later, we kept contact and now he wants me to be the conductor on one of the shows, assistant conductor for a music festival, co-producer on a pretty big project related to film music and we just agreed to produce one of my ideas that I had been pitching for a while!
I didn’t win the competition, but I won the gigs. Attitude was everything. Remember to never give up. Be always passionate, kind and generous. You never know who is watching! (and it’s also just nice to be nice)