• Liv Appleton

Sparking the Flame

How One Olympic Theme was the Cure for My 'Banding Slump'



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I'll be totally honest with you, this was not the blog post I planned on writing.


Those of you who follow either me or the blog on social media will have seen that I was writing a blog entitled 'When Sport Meets Art - The Music of the Olympics', which was going to be an exploration of my favourite music that has been used in the Olympics over the years.


As I was listening to John Williams' 'Summon the Heroes', a piece that was going to be featured in the post, I burst into tears.


This (normally) wouldn't have been that unusual, listening to (in my opinion) one of the gods of orchestral brass writing should make you emotional.


However, on this occasion, as 'Summon the Heroes' blasted around my living room, I stopped writing and flashes of images whirled through my head and I found myself curled up on my couch literally sobbing with happy tears.


Although the piece was written for the 1996 Olympic Games, the 'athletes' that presented themselves in my mind, were not clad in lycra, limbering up on a starting line in an arena.


No, they were decked out in bow ties, white shirts and coloured jackets.


The silver or gold, they held in their hands were not medals, they were the instruments of our 'sport'.


Their arena was a contest stage and, after two long years, they were, finally, stepping onto the stage in their regional competitions.


I could see us lining up for registration, mingling in the bars, hugging those we may not have seen since the beginning of the pandemic.


I felt that unmistakable flutter of nerves and excitement, as you're about to take to the stage with your band, the pride of wearing your band colours, the silent praying that you don't split that top A# in the second movement.


It was like musical medicine.


Feel free to listen along as you read - it probably explains how I feel more than my words!



 

Summon the Imposter Syndrome


Those of you who have been following the blog for a while will know that me feeling a bit down, frustrated or worried about my playing before a contest is nothing new.


I play it down an awful lot (which isn't right, but it's a habit) and try and push through, as performing is so important to me, but speaking honestly, the whole process of practicing and rehearsing whilst dealing with the effects of anxiety and depression can feel like an Olympic sport!


From constant overthinking in rehearsals to dealing with imposter syndrome and feeling absolutely mentally exhausted that your brain just isn't switched on anymore.


It's like living with two little monsters in your head sometimes - with the depressive one convincing you that you're tired and practicing is just too much and the anxious one chastising you for not doing enough and you're going to fail due to your 'lack of effort'.


I have to say I'm incredibly thankful for my bandmates - from the dedication they show in rehearsals and friendly advice that is passed around the stand to the laughs shared over a pint in our band bar afterwards - when you suffer from a mental illness that can make you feel so alone sometimes, there is no value you can put on the support they give that keeps you going.


However, it can be difficult when you return home and these monsters start their negative rhetoric once more - lifting your instrument feels too heavy once again.


It feels ungrateful to feel this way considering the last two years we've had.


But this is real life - a life that has once again become busy with the world returning back to normal - feelings of being in a slump are completely valid.


Instead of beating myself for feeling like this, I gave myself a reality check.


This is something I love, it's what's going on in my head that is making me look at it with murky-tinted glasses - I just need a spark to light the darkness.



 

Sparking the Flame


When I was first writing this blog, I had the coverage of the Winter Olympics on the telly and was observing all the athletes taking part.



1 in 4 of us will live with a mental illness at some point in our lives.


With those stats, it is likely that a lot of the incredible athletes we see on the telly are dealing with the effects of living with a mental illness on top of normal nerves, stress and physical strain that comes with being an Olympic athlete.


Their stories about how they have got to where they are in the games will have different obstacles and challenges, of both mental and physical origin.


Along with the challenges that learning a new piece throws in our wake, we each have our own obstacles on our journey


to the contest stage - for me, it's my mental health.


This is where art, music, sport, theatre, movies, books and television can be a light in a pit of darkness of which we can so easily find ourselves.


Did listening to 'Summon the Heroes' magically take my mental illnesses away?


No.


I'm not about toxic positivity, so I'm


not going to pretend that a piece of music (no matter how good) will solve all of life's problems - but (and it's a big BUT) it drummed up a huge spark of motivation to not let my 'monsters' hold me back.


'Summon the Heroes' will be playing in my house at least once a day, to drum up those feelings of motivation, pride and excitement by being the soundtrack to my daydream of walking out on stage, side-by-side with my bandmates, united by our band colours, hearts beating and adrenaline pumping.


It takes just one spark - just one Olympic-style flame if you like, to light up the path out of 'the slump'.


It could be a powerful line in a film, watching an athlete overcome the obstacles to win gold or a piece of music written for the Olympic games that makes you sob on a random Wednesday night, because it has the power to remind you just how important brass bands are to you and to not give in to the negative voices in your head.


This is the beauty of the arts, sports and music - they have the power beyond anything else on this earth to encourage and inspire us - all we need to do is find the right spark to light the way.


Let's do this! 💕


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