True Story

An email I sent to my students a few years ago. All true.


Please allow me to tell you about something stupid I did a long time ago. When I was a senior in high school, I auditioned for clarinet scholarships at several colleges. Two of them offered me very good scholarships. One school offered more than another, so I picked the school with the best offer. I sent in the acceptance letter to the school I picked, but I never told the teacher from the other school that I was not going to go to his school. He emailed me and called me one the phone, but I did not return his phone calls.

Why did I do this? In retrospect, I guess it was because I was afraid he would be mad at me. I did not want to tell him I was not going to his school, so I just kept putting it off and eventually, it was so late that the scholarship deadline had passed.

This was a dumb thing for me to do because the clarinet world is so small. In the past several years, I have seen this teacher at festivals and conferences and I always feel bad around him. I respect him so much; yet, for all he knows, I did not pick his school because I did not like him or something. That was simply not the case at all. He is an excellent teacher and player.

Fast forward four years. I had just finished my undergraduate and I was auditioning at several schools for my master’s degree. Again, I was offered scholarships and I had to turn some of them down to accept something at another school. But, by the time I was ready to start my master’s degree, I was smart/responsible/thoughtful enough to contact the other teachers to tell them what was up.

Just by contacting them and being nice, I have made some good, important friends. Some of these teachers have ended up being fantastically supportive colleagues to me now that I am out of school and teaching. Really, these people are some of my best supporters.

So, here is my advice. Do not put off contacting someone because you are afraid of an awkward situation. Contact them, choose your words carefully, and tell them what is up. People appreciate that. It shows them your maturity and they will respect you more as a result. And then at the end of the day, they will feel better and so will you.

Communicating efficiently, effectively, and cordially with people is a very important key to success. And you cannot develop this skill until you try it. So, please do that. As time goes by, you will get better and better at it. Just by being nice, you can open so many doors for yourself.

Please feel free to comment, if you want.

Dr. Phillips

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