Johanna Yarborough

From: Tallahassee, FL

Age: 26

Job Title: Fourth Horn-Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Favorite Drink: Petrus Sourbeer

“I had always thought that success in my field was getting an orchestra job. I thought that was what happiness was, that was the validation that I wanted. It took me really far for a huge chunk of my life, it’s what got me an amazing job in an amazing orchestra in an awesome city. But as soon as I was validated as a musician, I realized there was a giant, gaping hole in my life that an orchestra job does not completely fill up. I became completely self aware, and because I put everything into winning a job, my personal life, all of my relationships, all the exercising that I didn’t do, and all the bad food that I did eat, it fucked up a lot of stuff, and it broke me in half. Two years ago I would definitely consider myself an unhappy person, and what was the worst part about it was that no one understood why I could possibly be unhappy. I had everything I had always wanted. But, either way, there’s two ways of looking at how my life has gone so far. By thinking ‘I’ll be happy when I’m successful’ I got what I wanted, and I love my job. In fact, if given the opportunity to do it all over again, I’m not really convinced that I would change a whole lot because I truly believe that our experiences put us on a path and they lead to other experiences.                                                                                         Winning my job led to new doors being open, and certain doors being closed, but quite frankly                                                                                           those doors needed to be closed. Now I’m sort of to the point where my mindset is more ‘I will be                                                                                       successful when I’m happy’, and that’s been my focus.”

What’s been your greatest struggle?: “My self esteem was totally entangled my audition success. With auditions you have to really put all of yourself into it, and it takes so much emotion and hard work to really perform and do a good job. Same thing with relationships too, after a breakup you always think, ‘I can’t go through this again’, but you figure out how to do it. So I put all of my eggs into this one basket and after it was over, after the interviews stopped, and the headshots were done, and the ‘welcome to the DSO’ parties were over, I was without a roommate for the first time, with no friends outside of a few people at work, no pets at that point. I was just empty after it was all said and done. I had a few weeks of a depression that was scary for my friends and my family, and myself too. I had no idea I was capable of anything that dark. So I luckily had a few really, really caring friends who helped drag me out of it. From then on I’ve been on a mission to prove to myself that I am enough just as I am. It doesn’t take a horn in my hands to feel that, it doesn’t take a hairstyle, it doesn’t take a cat, because you can add all of these things to your life and still feel empty, you know?

To add to that, I once did a yoga exercise where we were on the beach, and we just had to start digging a hole. The instructor would say things like, ‘now you have a new boyfriend, and you think that this hole is getting shallower when in fact, it’s actually getting a little deeper. So start digging. Now you’re going to get a couple of cats to throw in on that. Start digging.’ I was literally up to my waist in this hole and the moral of the story was, was that the more things we throw into our life, the more distracted we are from seeing ourselves and from paying attention to ourselves. That was what the horn was for me for the last 15 years. It was a way for me to avoid facing how I felt about myself. So the jig is up. There is no more distracting left. So that was a very profound struggle for me to figure out that self esteem, coming from an audition win, that does not exist beyond a few weeks. It just doesn’t. The fame goes away, trust me, and you’re left with yourself, seeing yourself for the first time. Well, I saw myself for the first time and I wasn’t happy with what I saw, but I’m really thankful for the opportunity to fix it."

Advice to others with a similar struggle: "What I really tried to focus on was surrounding myself with uplifting and uplifted people. I just surrounded myself with people who I wanted to be like. I have a really good friend who comes into town to sub with the orchestra a lot, and she stays with me whenever she comes into town, and she is a great example of someone, who in my opinion, has her shit together. I really admire that about her, and it’s funny, because she’s on the audition circuit. I have something that she really values in her life right now, and she has several things in her life that I really value and want for myself. So, it always gets back to us wanting what we don’t have too, but I just really focused on just being around people who were living a life that I admired. My friend who’s the music director of the Louisville Symphony, Teddy Abrahms, he is an INCREDIBLY creative person, and it’s a belief of mine that if something inspires you, it’s really just showing you something that you’re capable of. So, talking to him, his creativity is a catalyst for ideas for creativity within myself, he opened my eyes to the things that I’m capable of. I use the word catalyst because it’s not that the ideas that you have weren’t in you all the time, it’s just that someone might say something and suddenly the idea becomes completed. It just comes together. So it’s about surrounding yourself with people who pull out the best in you, and that has really helped me get far."

How do you define inspiration? How do you define motivation? How do you define discipline?: "Inspiration is an attitude, where attitude and vulnerability meetup. It’s allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and you have to have a certain attitude to be vulnerable. You can be inspired by the paint on the wall if you can open yourself up to the fact that something so simple as that could actually really move you. Motivation is what fuels me to reach a goal, it propels me to act in a certain way to reach that goal. Discipline, I mean that’s what ignites after the inspiration and the motivation combine and that’s what actually propels the action behind achieving a goal."

What is one of your most memorable musical moments?:"You’ve met Corbin Wagner, right? He and I got along so well, but one time I told him that one of our colleagues was mad because she was carrying a bunch of stuff across this riser and trying to balance herself and her instruments, and Corbin was like jumping up and down on this riser which made that difficult. I told him that mostly to get a reaction out of him, not so much that she was actually mad. So, in an attempt at retaliation, when I was walking down the riser, he started jumping up and down to throw me off balance, but the riser snapped in half! It was the loudest sound that I have ever heard and everyone just stopped playing and turned their heads to stare at him. Corbin just sat down, put his head in his hands, and he was crying he was laughing so hard. That kept us laughing for weeks, I mean even now if I bring it up, it’s still hysterical. But that was definitely the most humorous thing I can remember happening."

Hobbies: Cooking, raising my pets and going to Calder Dairy to pick up baby animals

Charity/Causes to raise awareness to: The Gentle Barn

How do you define success?: "I have re-defined success. Success used to be so huge to me. I didn’t see it being successful in small bits, on a small scale, I just saw it as this huge thing looming over me, and I’ve realized it is about perspective. I didn’t see the success of playing an excerpt in the practice room and doing it really well. I didn’t see the success in not killing my cats one more day. What about the 3,000 dates I’ve been on and suffered through and still remained a person who believes in love, like that is success. Not eating 5,000 calories in a day, that is success. So, I try to chill out on the pressure that I put on myself, probably a little unsuccessfully so far, but I’ve been focusing on the smaller successes in life instead of just waiting for the huge one to happen and putting everything into that. That’s what got me into trouble in the first place. There’s even success in taking that deep breath when you’ve had a very horrible day. It’s a very small thing, but it can change everything."