I’ve been playing for four years, and am almost entirely self-taught (no nearby teachers, and lacking the resources to travel). My lever harp was a gift from my husband, friends, and family, so I feel like I can’t just put it down. But I am so burnt out. I’ve played paying gigs 3-5 times each year for the past three years. I failed in some significant way every single time except for one Christmas two years ago.
I have a background as a vocalist, so I didn’t start the harp as a music or performance newbie, and over the years I’ve used all the tricks I can find. I practice with efficiency. I’ve researched and used techniques for bullet-proofing my performances. I feel like I’ve worn the clichés to shreds. It doesn’t matter to me anymore whether anybody noticed my failure: I did. I’m well past the point of “if at first you don’t succeed”: three years is longer than “at first,” and I have tried-tried again ad nauseam.
My most recent failure was at the inauguration ceremony for the president of the local community college. It was a very, very simple duet with a flautist; we played from one of her old flute lesson books, me on the piano part. It was not hard, and I knew it, and I even used the music (I usually perform memorized). At the most difficult part, which was not hard, I lost my placement and flopped. Same thing on the repeat.
This sort of thing has happened over and over and over again for three years. Each time, I give myself a day to cry and recover, then head back into my practice room and double-down. And I go back out and try again. But this one happened almost two weeks ago and my harp is still in its case. I can’t bring myself to take it out. I don’t want to touch it. The thought of practicing exhausts me. I can’t imagine trying again.
Is it possible to recover from this kind of persistent failure and the resulting burnout?