19 April 2008

Is the best you can do good enough?

My thoughts this week have centered on the concept of Excellence. All my life, I've been fairly good at most everything I've done. It's a curse as much as a boon, as it inspired poor habits of study, practice, and work ethic with which I still struggle.

I've largely ended up in music because I'm good at it. And I am. But there are a lot of facets to music, and I'm interested in so many of them. However, I don't want to be good at what I do. I want to be excellent. I want to be like so many of my professors have been--masters at their craft, or at least masters at sharing insights and guiding students in that craft. I don't want to be a second-rate voice teacher, even one with a well-paying, tenured position at a good university. And I'm not sure if I have what it takes to be one of the greats, one who can hear a voice and, almost instinctively, but guided by a depth of knowledge and acuity of observation, know the best way to nurture that voice. I'm not sure if I can develop the personal skills needed to gain the trust of a student to the point where they are willing to feel completely vulnerable, trying things with their voice that they're embarrassed to have heard.

Along the same lines, I can probably become a good conductor, but can I excel there? My personal skills again present one hazard, but I believe I can, with experience, overcome nerves and fears in conducting just as I have in singing, in playing, in friendship, even. But I am again unsure. I don't know what the path is, from a gifted musician to a musician who can inspire others to higher levels of musicianship. From an ear that can listen critically to an ear that can listen critically when standing on the podium, with all those eyes (hopefully) looking to me for what to do...

So I wonder. But I can't truly predict how far I can go. But all my life, I've been able to achieve relative excellence, in comparison with what was required. All my life, I've been better than "good enough," even when hardly trying. Yes, I have innate talents, and should be quite thankful for them. And I am. But I'm approaching a dangerous precipice. Climbing a slope is one matter. Continuing to ascend when the cliff is passed, in short, to take flight... So I fear. How far I can go is a great unknown, and I'm embarking on this journey without knowing whither I go. Where will it end? And, when I do the best I can do, will it be excellent, or will it be merely good enough?

13 April 2008

Preseason Predictions

I know the season's already begun, so I have to get these out before anyone suspects tampering:

American League
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2. Seattle Mariners
3. Texas Rangers
4. Oakland Athletics
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Minnesota Twins
5. Kansas City Royals
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. Baltimore Orioles
Wild Card: Detroit Tigers

National League
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. Colorado Rockies
4. San Diego Padres
5. San Francisco Giants
1. Chicago Cubs
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. Cincinnati Reds
4. Houston Astros
5. St. Louis Cardinals
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
1. New York Mets
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Washington Nationals
5. Florida Marlins
Wild Card: Arizona Diamondbacks

In the unlikely scenario that these playoff teams actually make it, here's my playoff prediction:

Boston over Detroit
Cleveland over Los Angeles of Anaheim
New York over Arizona
Los Angeles over Chicago
Cleveland over Boston
Los Angeles over New York

World Series (Home field to Cleveland; I'll go with the percentages on that)
Cleveland over Los Angeles [Edit: accidentally typed New York, though I had LA advancing]

A couple notes. First, I'm an American League fan, so my assessments of National League teams are usually going to be rougher than in the American League. Second, I'm not claiming incredible confidence in my rankings. Rating the NL West, for instance, is a crap shoot. Any one (or two, or three, or four) of those four top teams could have a great year, and any one (or two, or three, but four?) of them could bomb.

Already, I'm starting to change my mind a little. I'm thinking 3rd for Oakland, and Kansas City may get out of the AL Central cellar this year. I like what I've seen from the White Sox so far, but even though the Tigers are starting to look like the '07 White Sox, I'm not ruling them out yet. The Cardinals were surprising last year when they caught up to within a couple games of Chicago and Milwaukee, and they're surprisingly strong to start this year. You can't rule them out, either. That's the one team in that division I could realistically see finishing anywhere from 1 through 6.

Who knows what to think with the lower spots in the AL and NL East? Only the season will tell. That's baseball.

Perhaps I'll go through each team in-depth at some point during the early summer.