Julia’s Demotion

I was 18. My best bassoon buddy had left the youth orchestra to play in more prestigious university ensembles. When I played second to her principal I revelled in the joy of being part of an orchestra, sitting in the middle of a magnificent piece of art.

Now I was principal bassoon. I didn’t just suffer from self-doubt. I held a firm conviction that I was a shameful failure, and it was only for some perverse reason that the conductor let me stay in the orchestra.

It was the evening of my first performance as principal, the first piece began with a bassoon solo. 45 minutes before the concert was to start I was trapped in the bathroom of the concert hall with a severe case of the nervous-runs, I had no faith in myself that I could pull off this performance. In the depths of despair, self loathing and panic, I broke out in hives from the soles of my feet to the top of my head. I got through the concert.

I don’ t remember how it went, but I was demoted back to second bassoon. I still feel the ache of shame and panic as I write this story, almost 30 years later. How I wish I’d had someone who understood what I was experiencing. More importantly, I wish someone could have helped me articulate what I was feeling, and de-shame the whole awful experience. Lisa, I am so glad you offer this programme. I can’t change my own experience, but it’s great to know you’re out there helping another generation of music lovers.