Lessons from “Oscar”

Mr. Oscar

Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/rocor/7198672908/”>rocor</a> via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com”>VisualHunt</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”> CC BY-NC</a>

Well…Sunday evening was interesting. I am not sure about you, but I wait on the Oscars every year. I have never seen all of the movies that are nominated for “Best Picture,” could never purchase any of the gorgeous gowns and jewelry I see worn by the stars…but I still await all of the glitz, glam, humor, and elegance associated with the evening…because I like to see what others regard as beautiful and creative.

This past Sunday evening was a new experience for me in many ways.  I realized after-the-fact that I have never even given a thought…not even a tiny one…to the idea that mistakes might be made in announcing the winners at the Academy Awards, nor have I considered the reasons such mistakes might have been made on such a huge night. As you know, with millions of people watching, mistakes become universal instead of tiny issues that a tad of “counsel” might resolve.  The “stage” is “the world” for the Academy Awards event.

We applaud the past Oscar telecasts when no mistakes were made, to our knowledge.  We also realize the full impact of such a huge mistake observed by millions.  We might have gotten it “right” 99.9% of the time, but that one time that we made mistakes in a public way seems to follow us wherever we go…sort of like George Washington’s eyes in the famous portrait, our memories holding us accountable  As teachers and musicians, and given some of the information that is emerging regarding the person to whom “Oscar blame” has been assigned, we do understand how the mistake could have been made.

When I was in the doctoral program at Florida State University in the late 80’s, I was fascinated by the research studies that dealt in “Competition for Focus of Attention.” I did not even own a computer at FSU…those were the days when having a computer at work was totally charming and new.  We did not know how our lives would change in less than a decade.  The research studies I examined…those old research studies…and the crude measuring techniques for the data…those old techniques…seemed to indicate that the brain could time-share rather effectively.  However…as human beings, it was determined that we really could not do too many things simultaneously very effectively, without making occasional errors.  We’ve learned to call that idea of simultaneous performance “multi-tasking” in the last several years, but in all the “spinning of plates” in our lives…we are reminded of our own humanity. We just get too splintered in too many directions to keep our lives focused and error-free.  Many would say there is no such thing as multi-tasking, it is that one person’s ability to time-share better than another.  The only problem is that in our “humanity,” the possibility of affecting other lives in negative ways is very, very real…and this humanity and unintentional destruction is found on the large stage and the small.  I’ve been there, and I would dare say that many of you know exactly what I mean by those words.

So…Oscar….what do you have to teach us regarding the gasps, stunned faces, and speechlessness we observed on Sunday?  They are likely too numerous to count, but think with me a moment as we name a few, and make the transfer to your choral classroom or environment.

  1.  When performing a task, focus primarily on the task.
  2. Know that the more “things” you find to do, the more your attention to “the task” will decrease.
  3. Decide the things that are important…students, performing, colleagues, the music, phrasing, vowels, rhythms, balance, tone quality, consonants, etc.  The list is endless, but we have a limited period of time.
  4. When mistakes are made, we never know the broad extent of their destruction.
  5. Our intention does not matter…the mistake “functions as it functions,” with no regard for our desire.
  6. There are always consequences for our mistakes, none of which are generally too positive.
  7. Mistakes are not the end of the world, but they will likely make our world traumatic for a while.
  8. Apologies cannot “undo” the mistake.
  9. Mistakes reflect on others…family, school, community, professional business, etc.
  10. Decide if the “opportunity” is worth the risk.

I was very “heartened” by the very “classy” display of professionalism by the cast, crew, and producers of La La Land. I know it must have been difficult to return the statuettes, but it was also very easy to discern why this excellent group of artists had been so successful during the evening’s awards.  It reminded me of the Vince Lombardi quote that said, “When you get into the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.” All of these great professionals definitely acted like they had been on that stage before, and it was one more opportunity to realize why they had been there.

I had watched Moonlight the night before the Oscars, and was moved by the uniqueness of the movie.  It is an incredible piece of art, emotion, beauty, and passion.  The work was a depiction of a life I did not experience, but it is also the work of a professional from Florida State University who once again sought to open my eyes and educate me.  I am grateful to fellow Seminole Barry Jenkins for his amazing work as Film Director in Moonlight.  Thank you, and congratulations.

Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/rocor/7198672908/”>rocor</a> via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com”>VisualHunt</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”> CC BY-NC</a>