Skipping State Solo and Ensemble

There’s something you might not know about me. In fact, if we didn’t go to high school or college together, there’s a good chance you have no idea about it.

I’m a classically trained vocalist.

I don’t get the chance to sing in front of people very much anymore. When I do, it’s at church and I keep the opera tucked away.

But, back in the day, I sang in a whole bunch of choirs and ensembles. I even performed in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas (I was the lead in H.M.S. Pinafore…I was 17 and the male lead was 12…ahem).

Me as Josephine. I'm in the middle...just in case you wondered.
Me as Josephine. I’m in the middle…just in case you wondered.

I exaggerate not when I say that, for a good long time, singing and performing was my whole life.

My senior year, I competed at Solo and Ensemble. If you aren’t familiar with it, Solo and Ensemble is akin to the auditions on American Idol, complete with a Simon Cowell type. A singer or duo, et al, enter a small room and sing two songs for a few judges. Then, the judges, well, they judge the singing. The pitch, rhythm, breath, and on and on. Then, the waiting begins. Waiting to learn what rank the singer earned. 4 is bad. So bad. 3 is eh. 2 is good. 1 is close to perfection.

My senior year in high school I received a 1 for my solo performance.

Not only did I get a medal, I qualified to compete at the State level.

Sadly, I didn’t go to the next level. I declined.

Because I was afraid. I didn’t think I could compete and that I’d fail.

Friends, I regret that. I wish I would have at least tried.

Fast forward to today. Now I’m a writer (um…I know…obvious). Recently, I entered Paint Chips in a contest that will, I believe, include a rating from the judges (I just hope that the Simon Cowell types aren’t on the docket). It’s a risk.

My entire career is one big risk after another.

I could write a novel that will never be published. Maybe one of my novels will flop completely. Someone might tear apart one of my books in the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. One of these days, I might run dry of ideas. Risk. Risk. Risk.

But I’m not going to pass on the chance I have to keep writing. I’m going after it. And, if I fail, well, it’s not the end of the world. I’ll just try again. And again. Even when it’s scary.

And you, my friends, you have something to do. I don’t know what it is. Maybe you’re a teacher or an accountant, serving others. Or you work retail, dealing with grumpy guses all day. Perhaps you stay home with your kids, working endless hours and getting paid in hugs and sloppy kisses (I held down that gig for a few years…it wasn’t all that bad). Maybe you’re writing something that is burning inside you and you don’t know if it will ever be seen by eyes other than your own.

Can I just give you a gentle nudge? Go for it. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. You have something wonderful to offer. And we need you in this world. We do.

Don’t give up.

Keep going.

Even when it’s scary.

I promise you this: if you give it your all, you’ve already succeeded. And, in my heart, you’re a hero.

“Never, never, never give up.” ~Winston Churchill 

What is it that you’re pressing on to do? What keeps you going? What would happen if you gave up? Have you ever passed on a great opportunity? 



17 Comments on “Skipping State Solo and Ensemble

  1. As always, I enjoy your entries. Especially this one today. I needed to hear these words. Thank you for sharing, for taking risks and for encouraging others to do the same. You’re a gift!


    • Thank you, Rebecca! I’m so glad that my little ramblings can encourage others. Usually, I feel like I’m writing what I need to hear at the moment! Keep going. You’re a gift, too!


  2. Aw, it makes me sad that you didn’t go to states. 😦 But I’m glad you’re sticking your neck out in other ways today. My best wishes go after you.


    • Ah. Yes. Life is so much clearer in hindsight. But not going taught me a valuable lesson. Hey, back at you, Erin. We’re both living the risks. It’s so worth it!


  3. Hi Susie,

    I remember well the days of S & E festivals, band festivals, etc. In fact Pete and I met in the band. He was a Sr. and I a Soph. We would not have met had it not been for band. I played flute and piano solos and accompanied many other solos and ensembles. Fun times.

    Two Saturdays in March (different levels on each of the two days) most of my piano students are judged at SAT (Student Achievement Testing – an event sponsored by the MMTA). My granddaughter was entered at level 4 last Sat. and as she came out of the technique and sight-reading room, her judge said – either to her or to another teacher about her -“Well what a way to end my day – I just gave the lowest technique score of the day! Emily heard this and came out in tears. She’s 10. Her mother was right there, as was the lady in charge of the entire event. This lady offered to re-test Emily over the weekend, since all of her other scores were high enough that she perhaps COULD qualify for semi-finals (the next level of competition). Emily was retested on Sun. afternoon and scored slightly higher, but not enough to go on to the next level. But, she and her mom were OK with that. Emily is feeling better about it now and they joke about the “mean teacher.” I told them that, the longer you live and the more experiences you have with adjudicators, sooner or later you WILL run into a “mean” one. It’s just a part of life. Just buck up and do your best.

    4/2/2014 9:31 AM, Susie Finkbeiner wrote: > > Susie Finkbeiner posted: “There’s something you might not know about > me. In fact, if we didn’t go to high school or college together, > there’s a good chance you have no idea about it. I’m a classically > trained vocalist. I don’t get the chance to sing in front of people > very m” >


    • Oh, that’s awful. I’m glad that Emily had the chance to be retested and that she took the opportunity. I’m glad she’s able to laugh about it now. It’s a very true thing, we’ll all run into meanies. But we’ll also meet so many wonderful people along the way, too! Thanks for sharing that story, Judy.


  4. I missed my senior prom to go to State… which was no great loss, since the only girl I asked turned me FLAT down. :-d Glad you are pursuing the words… for all our sakes. Interesting how this goes with what’s coming on my blog tomorrow for a Throwback. 😀 Nice!


  5. Great post, Susie. Yes, being a published author is risk after risk indeed, but that does not negate pursuing God’s call on one’s life. I struggle between desiring man’s approval of my work and following God’s call on my life despite what reviews, publishers or editors … or, in my case … sales indicate.

    BTW, I’m a classically trained pianist and wish I had pursued that avenue in college. Wish I had played in a symphony or orchestra. “Shoulda, coulda, woulda” Would love to hear you sing sometime 🙂


  6. Susie . . . H.M.S. Pinafore – Meet the Admiral . . . I also was 17 yrs old . . . a great operetta. One of the best, though I might be a bit prejudiced as a result of my involvement. You’re right, I did not know about your musical background..would love to here you sing.


    • Well, I would have never known you were the Admiral. How fun! Ah! Singing in FW would be fun. It would also be nice to see you again. It’s been a long time!


  7. Pingback: On Giving Up. | Confessions of a Housewife.

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