I have often wondered what truly sets professionals apart from music students in conservatories. When you are young and still learning, you go through life with horse blinds thinking that the level of playing is the most important aspect of being a professional. But since I started college and began meeting, mingling, learning, and working with professionals, I have discovered great playing is only the beginning of success. The week that I spent with A Far Cry as their fellow in Albion was an excellent example of what it takes to be a successful professional.
The most important thing I have learned from A Far Cry is personal responsibility. Contrary to popular belief, personal responsibility does not mean to direct your focus on yourself - it is exactly the opposite. Personal responsibility is the ability to direct your focus on your surroundings and adapt as quickly and as seamlessly as possible. I was surprised that in rehearsals, the Criers did not have arguments over interpretation. Whatever suggestion anyone offered, it was rehearsed and immediately applied. It did not matter if someone theoretically disagreed with a suggestion: they tried it anyway and played it so convincingly as though it was their own idea.
Criers trust each other in performance 100%. If someone takes a risk, everyone goes with them. It is this alertness and personal responsibility in catching others that creates an extremely meaningful artistic experience. You can rehearse something from sunrise to sunset but in the end, no two performances are ever the same. If you are too busy reading your own notes and are not present, you will not be ready to face a challenge or catch a curveball. This is something that students in conservatories still lack: to substitute their concern for their own notes and playing for presence and adaptability. It is never the environment’s fault - it is only your mistake that you were not there to witness it and catch on.
The second important thing I learned from A Far Cry is personal responsibility in management. In order for A Far Cry to exist, everyone needs to take part in sharing, voting on decision making, leading rehearsals, and sticking to the rehearsal plans. Everyone in the group is a leader and plays a crucial role, even if it means taking turns to listen out for balance. Everyone takes on a personal responsibility to be a leader not for their own ego-boost but for the greater common goal of creating a quality product.
If there’s one huge point that conservatory students like me can take away from a week with A Far Cry is that personal responsibility means using your peripherals, understanding how you fit into a whole, and taking risks. Until now, I often translated being “responsible” as not doing anything to make others uncomfortable or not deviating from what is expected. However, being responsible as an artist means that you are a role model, inspire others to be fearless, and let them know you’ve got their backs. The only way you can inspire others to get out of their comfort zones is if you step out of that box first and be constantly ready for the unexpected. Only then a great performance like Albion can happen.
- Gergana Haralampieva
Gergana Haralampieva is a violinist, and one of A Far Cry's Season 11 NEC Fellows