Last week was the anniversary of the death of Jean-Baptiste Lully, who died in 1687. A French composer of the Baroque Period, he was also one of the world's first conductors. And the job killed him.
No, seriously. Here's how it happened, and immediately qualified him for music history's first and, still probably best, Darwin Award.
He was conducting a performance of his Te Deum at a celebration of Louis XIV's recovery from surgery (irony alert). In those days, a conductor's baton was actually a long staff--somewhat similar to a mace like you would see a ceremonial drum major carry today in a military band. They kept time by banging the pointed end of the staff on the stage floor, which ultimately led to the creation of Dr. Beat...but that's another tragic story.
In his excitement, at one point Lully missed the stage and instead struck his toe. The wound developed gangrene, but Lully refused to have his leg amputated because he still wanted to be able to enjoy dancing. He died of blood poisoning in two months.
Fortunately, thanks to new advancements in modern baton technology, this is less of a problem.
about to dive into a time of year that, in all seriousness, can be
hazardous to our health as music educators, festival organizers and
travel planners. It is perhaps our busiest and most stressful time of
year, and I have experienced it in all three of those vocations.
music educators, we are simultaneously managing such things as solo and
small ensemble contest, production of spring musicals, preparing for
spring large ensemble festival and final concerts, submitting
ever-shrinking budgets for the following school year, fighting over the
calendar for the same coming school year, coordination of music for
numerous end of year celebrations, possibly embarking on a spring tour,
researching summer music camp options for our most dedicated students,
hiring summer band camp staff, and finalizing and promoting multiple
fundraising efforts to even be able to afford it all.
travel planners, this is the point where everything you have been
working on for the past 12 months or more comes to fruition in the span
of three months of long days and short, sometimes worry-filled nights.
Will a bus break down in the middle of Nebraska? Will that blizzard hit
Denver and shut down the airport at the same time six groups are trying
to fly to both coasts? Will that hotel forget about the 200-member group
The festival organizer has similar
worries. Will an adjudicator get the flu the night before the contest?
Will the trophies arrive at the right place? I'm finding this is where
the internal conversation of "festival organizer OCD" kicks into high
gear. ("Did you order those four timpani to be delivered? Better check. Are you sure? Better check again.")
all of this is one simple truth--we are this way because we want these
experiences to be the best possible. We're all artists and we're wired
for nothing less than excellence. If there is anything I've finally
learned after 25 years experiencing the spring rush in these vocations,
it comes down to two things.
First--be kind to yourself.
- Take breaks--mental and physical--when you can. Preferably away from a computer screen.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help.
- Eat well, even (and especially) when you're on the road. I force myself to order salad more when I'm away from home.
well, or at least as best as you can. I've started using a sleep mask,
and besides feeding my inner super hero it works wonders.
This in my opinion is the world's best stress buster. We have a
treadmill here that just recently broke down after 12 years of almost
daily use. (Yeah, bad timing on that.) It has probably saved me more
than I know.
- Find a fun stress buster. One year during a
particularly rough spring I got really good at Tiger Woods Golf on our
Nintendo Wii. (Sadly the skill does not transfer into reality.)
when you mess up (and you will), simply this--take responsibility and
own the problem. People will respect you infinitely more, and hiding it
and being found out makes you feel infinitely worse. Then whenever
possible fix the problem, because nothing feels better than that. Then
Second--be kind to those around you.
And, hopefully unlike Lully, you'll live to dance another day.
- Remember you're working together toward the same goals.
- Remember to take care of each other.
- Say "please" and "thank you". A lot.
- A fun little surprise will make you both feel better.
- Find the humor in the everyday. Laugh about the ridiculous things that happen. Because they do.
when someone else messes up (and they will), simply this--don't waste
time playing the blame game. Focus on solving the problem. Give kindness
and service, because nothing feels better than that. Figure out how to
make it better the next time.Then move on.