A little over a week ago, we had a top secret “mystery guest” at the Lamont Music School’s opening Convocation. Who, I thought, would have something so special to say to music students and faculty; who needed total secrecy before the event; who could not have photography or recording; who required several guards at the entrances to our concert hall; and who had a schedule that caused us to move our convocation from Friday to Thursday? Which famous musician would care if the general public flocked to a music convocation?

Obviously a political figure, most of us thought. But really… President Trump or Hillary at a music convocation?? The powers-that-be dispelled rumors of Beyoncé, so a friend and I thought – Condoleeza Rice – DU alum, former Secretary of State and classical pianist, who recently collaborated with YoYo Ma? Now that might make sense.

Now I have to confess that when they started announcing the stats for our mystery guest, I could tell right away they were not female. When they got to the middle part of the introduction and mentioned the NFL and two Super Bowls under two different franchises, it finally dawned on me (pathetic sports fan that I am) – Peyton Manning, former QB of the Denver Broncos himself??!

So what instrument does Peyton Manning play to qualify him to speak at this event? His depreciating answer: air guitar and the right hand melody for his Insurance commercial!

But wait – what do athletes and musicians have in common? Much more than one thinks: a passion for what they do, the ability to perform under pressure, and, many say, lots of natural talent. Obviously, what Peyton has played, while not music, he has played superbly well. Well enough to be invited to speak at our DU music convocation. Actually, just the fact that he agreed to do this speaks volumes about him.

I thought that it might interest you to hear what Manning had to say about issues shared by both musicians and athletes:

On hard work vs. talent – wisdom from a former coach: “Every day you either get better or worse.”

Peyton’s advice to the student musicians: “Do not be afraid to work on your weaknesses, even when it’s embarrassing.”

On performing under pressure and how he deals with a disappointing performance, a quote from Chuck Nolan: “Pressure is something you feel only when you don’t know what you are doing.”

Hmm…. I love that. Think about that one a little more. When things don’t go the way we expect, is there a tendency to blame pressure, circumstances, or the people involved, instead of the quality of preparation?

“When you have had a tough patch, that’s when you find out about your character. If it were easy, anyone could do it.”

Peyton stressed the importance of staying “even keeled and humble,” not basing your actions on the responses or opinions of others. He used the example of his brother, Eli Manning, and how he does not read any news reports – regardless of whether the game goes well or not.

Great advice for musicians, parents, and everyone from all walks of life. Thank you, Peyton Manning!