Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Penultimate honors…

One of the many blogs I peruse had a topic of "10 things to do before I die". I figured this was a great topic, but as I started to think about it, one of the items on my list got me stuck, contemplative, and irritated.

I have always wanted to be a champion at something or part of a championship group; a personal or collective effort to be the best at any given talent, task, or genre. I have always been considered or become involved in groups that are considered good – even very good – but as of yet, every competitive endeavor I have undertaken has fallen just shy of being the "best" by whatever powers that be are making the decisions.

I'm very competitive. Not fiercely or unhealthily so, but I thrive on the motivation competition inspires in myself and others. Being pitted with and against one's peers toward achievement of a goal is by far the best way to get one of one's ass. Of course the rules of good sportsmanship and proper perspective apply, but competition is a fantastic motivator.

All through high school, I was 2nd chair trombonist in the band. Even when I tied the first chair at auditions, the director chose not to upset the status quo. Second fiddle (trombone) became my standard. I did manage the lead in my high school musical my senior year, but that was largely due to my already knowing "The Music Man" backwards and forwards and 3 years of some serious brown-nosing of the director.

My high school marching band came in 3rd place at state finals my senior year. Better than we had placed in about a decade, as I understand, and MUCH better than any of us had expected, thanks largely to an unexpected stand-still prelims competition due to weather. It was a thrill to make it to finals at all, and was recognition of the musical talent in our group and progress we had made, but not first place.

My drum corps, the year I joined, came in 2nd at Drum Corps International finals in Division II. We lost by one tenth of a point out of a possible 100 – the smallest increment one could lose by, at the time. The kicker there was that we lost in field percussion to a corps that didn't even march a drumline – only pit percussion. Yes, you're going to have a cleaner sound when you have ONE person playing snare, but c'mon! In '92 we did manage to take the Drum Corps Midwest Championship, but faltered a bit by International. Minor gratification, but still no medal or championship ring. The patch on my jacket was nice, though.

My barbershop chorus has placed 2nd at every district representative contest I have participated in with them (except the last one where we took 3rd), usually losing to the Macomb chorus by a slim, yet significant, margin. My chorus has won the district championship a time or two when eligible, but that was only when Macomb wasn't eligible to compete (a chorus can only win once every 3 years).

Granted, being the international representatives for the Pioneer District is rather like being the valedictorian of the "special class", as our district is looked on as the red-headed step-child of the Barbershop Harmony Society these days. Aside from the Vagabonds, Center Stage, and Power Play quartets, we haven't turned out a champion anything in decades. Even our district rep chorus has consistently placed in the mid 20's in international competition. We have never made it to international, and our prospects aren't good this year, either. Still, it would be nice to go.

Even when I'm not performing with a group, they do well, but not excellent. The marching bands and drum corps I have worked with always come up shy of a first place. All of the groups I have worked with improve from their previous years in whatever capacity I am assisting, improving their scores above what they have done before. I haven't joined up with any groups that have a history of winning in recent years and it's gratifying to watch them improve and gain momentum, but they never manage to go "all the way" while I'm there.

I've taken a little selfish solace in the fact that the band that cut me from the staff this year for "budgetary reasons" has fallen to dead last in the rankings this year. I feel horrible for the kids – especially the seniors – but (perhaps unrealistically) feel I had something to do with their previous success, moderate though it may have been. A circumstantial fact I hope isn't lost on the director when compiling the staff for next year.

I appreciate the moderate respect I get from being "good" at whatever it is I try to do. The sincere compliments and thanks I get from spectators, band parents, what-have-you do not go unnoticed or unacknowledged. Still, it would be nice to be considered more than just "very competent" or "quite good" at SOMETHING once in a while. To be considered "the best" or "top notch" at something would not only be boost to my self-esteem, it might get me a bit more work in areas like teaching, coaching, performing, etc.

No matter how good you are at something, there will always be someone better. That's a simple fact, and I understand it. Still, it'd be nice to have someone call me that or refer to me as such to others once in a while.

It's not something I dwell on, but it creeps into my head now and again. I don't apply this to my quartet's upcoming contest, as I don't expect much by way of placement, anyway.

Maybe I'm just being a self-centered egomaniac

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