I'm Living my Best Life

I walk around Interlochen's campus every day in a complete daze; this is home. I spend 5 hours a day with the most talented 13-15 year olds I've ever met, and they make me laugh so hard that I forget how much I hated my own middle school years. I have lunch with my friends in the admissions office, and I watch students' faces light up as they realize that Academy might be a possibility for them. But I didn't come here for all that; I came here to do my job, which has come with its own challenges and discoveries...

The challenges of my summer job began before I even stepped foot on Interlochen's campus. I spent two terrifying weeks practicing the P/V book for Sunday in the Park with George, as well as brushing up on my sightreading and trying to stay on top of my classical rep. I cried almost daily, completely horrified at the thought of taking my first steps as an employed accompanist. I guess Interlochen is a good place for first steps.

My parents and friends tried their hardest to comfort me, and while I tried my hardest to listen, I didn't really hear them. And I knew it. I think there are some things that you just have to learn yourself, and being able to trust yourself is one of them. Other people can put their faith and confidence in me all they want, but if I still don't trust myself to do a good job, that fear doesn't just disappear. I won't say that I've rid myself of all artistic insecurity overnight, but I will say that I'm doing a lot better because I've discovered this thing I'm calling the "Accompanist Principle". 

When you spend 5 hours a day playing the same 4 pages of music, you stop caring about mistakes. You don't have enough time or energy to agonize over every missed note, every late entrance, or every wrong chord. You just keep going and eventually you don't make those mistakes anymore. I think about it like baking a thousand cookies and only burning ten. So basically, you reach a ratio of successes to failures when mistakes don't matter and you can feel a lot better about yourself, and this has been magnified for me as an accompanist.

But the Accompanist Principle comes with a disclaimer. Because it doesn't work without the number of trials necessary to reach that perfect ratio. If you're baking fifteen cookies and you still burn ten, then you're out of luck. You have to keep baking the cookies to succeed. It's hard to put into words, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that life only works if you keep living it.

The other great thing about camp is that I've gotten rid of all extraneous activities that take up too much of my time and energy. I told a friend the other day that it's like when you go on vacation and you enjoy life so much more because you only bring the possessions you absolutely need. Here at Interlochen I wake up, play piano, eat, play more piano, eat, listen to music, read, write, and sleep. I have no other responsibilities and I'm absolutely thriving. 

I haven't felt this happy in a really long time, and I attribute most of that feeling to this combination of newfound artistic security and simplification of lifestyle. I attribute the rest of my happiness to the fact that I'm allowing myself to move beyond my freshman year. I had a very challenging first year at Eastman, trying to balance all of my passions under new pressure to perform at a very high level. And I won't say that I've learned how to balance all of them... I know I'll struggle with that for my entire life. But I will say that I have gained new perspective that is allowing me to put this year behind me and throw out the burned cookies, if you will, in order to make room to bake more.

So in the spirit of baking new cookies... I currently have a batch in the oven that I am SO excited to finally be able share with you all! I have written/am currently editing a musical-theatre style song cycle to address different forms of discrimination throughout history and what we can do about it!!

Check out my official announcement here:

Look at the Doghouse Incubator Project here:


Doghouse Ensemble Theatre's Incubator program is designed to bring young artists the tools to develop new works throughout all stages of a writing process. Project goals range from staged readings and developmental workshops to fully-realized productions and feedback opportunities. Incubator projects are comprised of both commissioned and submitted work.

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Thank you so much for all your support and have a wonderful day :)

Reagan Casteel