What To Do After Being Denied

In my last post I gave a brief overview and a look into the audition/application process with a focus on how high the likelihood of denial may be. In a career of music, or in the arts in general, the occurrance of denial almost becomes a part of our everyday routine. In order to be successful there is a need to look past the initial denial and grow from the situation. In relation to my original post I would like to explore what to do and what not to do in these situations.

The Five Stages of "Grief"

For the situation in which denial occurs after an audition or an application, I will be adapting the five stages of grief and relating them back to musicians and composers. First, lets take a look at the situation being handled poorly:

1. Denial - This is the initial reaction when a denial to an audition/application occurs. You had your mind set on the opportunity and simply can not believe it wont be happening. You think that maybe there was a mistake and you've received the denial by accident.

2. Anger - This is often accompanied by playing the blame game. There is no possible way the denial is based on the materials within the application/audition and it must be the fault of someone other than yourself. You know that you are a talented musician/composer and you find every reason possible to put the denial outside of your own control.

3. Bargaining - The blame from anger onto others eventually shifts to blaming ourselves. We begin to have the "if only" thought cycle; "if only I had practiced more," "if only I had changed this part of my composition," "if only I had networked better with the teachers/judging panel," etc. 

4. Depression - The shift of blame being placed on ourselves eventually brings out feelings of being a bad musician/composer. Those feelings overwhelm your thoughts and you begin to question if you are "good enough" to make music a career. Looking back on your previous achievements you convice yourself that it couldn't have been talent but simply luck that allowed you to receive the recognition.   

5. Acceptance - At this point you understand the reality of being denied from the application/audition but you allow the feelings from the previous stages to always stay with you. Each and every time you go through the process it chips away at your will to continue auditioning/applying.

This process is both time consuming and unhealthy which may lead to the eventual "giving up" on music as a career. Below, we can examine the same five stages with a more positive outlook on the situation.

1. Denial - The initial reaction is disappointing, however, having set yourself up with a firm foundation (see below) for this situation you easily move on.

2. Anger - This stage can be, and should be, completely avoided. In reality there is no reason to be angry because being denied from an audition/application has not set you back in any way. There is no reason to place blame on any outside forces.

3. Bargaining - Rather than having an "if only" thought cycle we can move into an educated approach and learn from the situation. Take a look at your materials, along with any feedback you may have received, and try to become better having had the chance to audition or apply. There is something to be learned in every situation.

4. Depression - Along with anger, this stage should be completely avoided. Being denied does not make you a bad composer or a bad musician, it simply means that you happened to not be selected for this decision. Continue working hard to be the best composer/musician you can be, not limiting your self worth to an audition/application and not comparing yourself to other composers/musicians. 

5. Acceptance - In this scenario the idea of acceptance should come rather quickly as you move on from the denial, continuing your routine to become a better musician/composer. No reason to harp on the past when you can focus on the future.

This process is both quick and painless, allowing you to never lose momentum within your own career path. No denial can keep you from becoming better at your craft.

The Reality 

The reality of going into a career of music, or in the arts, is that you will deal with denial day in and day out. The important thing is to set yourself up with a firm foundation for when it happens and that comes from your state of mind. If you go into an audition/application convincing yourself there is no way you can fail, then you are probably setting yourself up for some bad news and a rocky road in your career. If you go into an audition/application with the mindset that your career will not hinge on this single opportunity than you are setting yourself up for a quicker rebound from any denial. After all, there is literally no harm in applying/auditioning and being denied. You will end up in the exact same place you would be if you didn't audition/apply. Always push yourself to become a better musician/composer and continously make efforts to create your own "luck." Never rely on a specific audition/application to "make" your career.