The last drop of sweat my body has to offer slowly falls from my forehead onto my two-year-old neatly pressed black concert dress. In the first oboist's chair I sit, horn neatly propped in my lap, as I wait for the conductor to walk onto stage. My slightly trembling hands make physical the instinct to run, hide, offer some excuse and exit stage left.
My mind flashes to the earlier part of this day, filled with practice and reed-making, in preparation for the moments about to unfold. Doubt, worry, and excitement occupy equal portions of my mind, and the relief of focused thought comes only as the bright stage lights help bring me back to this moment. I soar in oboe performance, my favorite activity.
The daily grind of reed making and the pressures of performance, practice, and lessons sometimes overshadow the beautiful and miraculous thing that I do. I make music.
Reed making is the craft that supports my music and practice the stone against which I hone my art.
This calling is my privilege. It is my visceral link to both this moment and to my musical forebears, the great masters of my art, and that first, thoughtful soul who blew through two blades of grass. They are my ancestors and my foundation. When I play my instrument, I strengthen the link that extends back throughout history and provide yet another stepping stone for those to come.
The pleasures of performing come when a music lover smiles, closes his eyes, and nods his head to the beat. If I can make one person happier with my music, I have accomplished something great. And at the end of a performance, if there have been no squeaks, no wrong notes, or no missed cues, I know my talents are improving.