Excellence is both an encouragement and a discouragement. Which it becomes depends on the heart of the observer. Yesterday I attended the Second Annual Bass Fest sponsored by the Bass Society of Fredonia State College. High school bassists were judged by two professionals who each teach and play for philharmonic orchestras. I was in absolute awe of these high school students' abilities. In my wildest dreams, I could never begin to play music at the level they are at in high school.
Occasionally, I listen to Youtube videos of professional bassists. Some are accomplished classical musicians, others primarily play jazz or rockabilly. I work at the music, study their techniques, try emulating them, and finally end up just thump-thumping some simple lines I've learned. If you've ever listened to rockabilly, the bass line is known as slap bass, where the player plucks the string then slaps the fingerboard to come up with a chick-a-boom sound. I've tried it; it's hard to do! I can get the chick-a, but miss the boom, or vice-versa. And as far as playing classical, forget it! Trying to play a sustained note with vibrato is like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time, only harder.
So here's my dilemma: The excellence I've observed lets me know what is possible, but it also highlights what for me will be impossible. Whether I am discouraged or encouraged is not the responsibility of the examples I've seen, but of the determination of my own heart. I can choose to look at them and give up in despair, knowing that is a level of musicianship I'll never attain. Or I can look at them and say to myself, "I may not be able to get where they are, but knowing it's possible means if I work at it, I can at least improve." And of course, that applies in all of life. We can see our ideals as impossibilities or as challenges. I choose the challenges, and am thankful tonight for the examples that inspire me to reach forth into the future.