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ISSUE 118 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/6/2005

Scholz gives 'last words'

By Lauren Radomski
Advertising Manager

Friday, May 6, 2005

Students and faculty filled the pews of Boe Chapel last week to listen to the “last words” of retiring music professor Robert Scholz. Scholz’s talk was part of the Blue Key Honor Society’s “Last Lecture Series.”

In a talk entitled “Beyond Toxic Perfectionism: You Can Never Get It Right,” Scholz addressed a problem that he admitted “has plagued [him] personally.” Defining perfectionism as “the striving to be without blemish,” he identified the dangers of demanding perfection from oneself as well as from others. According to Scholz, the debilitating effects of perfectionism are reflected in individual struggles such as anorexia and dependence on steroids. Also, perfectionism can lead to broken relationships when a friend or loved one does not measure up to exceedingly high expectations.

Perfectionism “diminishes or negates what makes life worth living,” Scholz said. “If you are a perfectionist, all goals are impossible.”

Along similar lines, perfectionism tends to limit the goals that people set for themselves. “The problem of a perfectionist,” Scholz said, “is that one tends not to do the jobs one cannot do to perfection.” Thus, perfectionists miss out on potentially rewarding experiences because they fear they may fail to achieve certain standards.

Scholz described some of the ways in which perfectionism influences his life. For example, he is reluctant to watch or listen to tapes of his performances because “I always look and sound worse than I hoped for.” He noted his tendency to listen for mistakes, no matter how successful the performance.

Scholz offered what he described as “antidotes for poisonous perfectionism.”

“One fundamental change,” he said, “would be to accept life as it is, with all of its imperfections.”

Over the years, Scholz has learned to acknowledge that performance problems almost always occur, whether they take the form of errors in composition or program misspellings. He has also come to the conclusion that “no job is completely finished,” citing the example of a chord or progression that could always sound just a bit better.

Scholz gave the example of tuning a choir as proof that “no system works for all purposes and needs.” No group tunes exactly the same way, and there is simply “no absolutely right way to do it.” By accepting imperfection as “part of the natural order,” one can come to grips with these fluctuations.

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