Written by Aaron Fullan
I’ll never forget the feeling.
The nausea, the sweaty palms, the racing heart, the shortness of breath…
“Recitals”, they call them…but I call them “I’d-Rather-Die”-als.
Now rest assured, I sincerely had THE best piano teacher in the world. I am convinced of it. Her name was Sharon Burggraaf and she made playing the piano an absolute joy; I always looked forward to going to lessons each week and showing her my incremental improvement. I truly believe that had I had a different teacher, I would’ve quit playing the piano at an early age. Although she knew I wasn’t the greatest technical player (I stopped doing my theory homework. Like…completely. Oops.), she did know that I had a passion for the creative side of music. Interesting to note that music is one of the few activities that stimulates both sides of the brain simultaneously! So let that be a lesson to all the schools that are making budget cuts to the music programs rather than taking from the overly-funded football teams… ;)
I loved piano. I loved my teacher. But I DREADED recitals. With a kind of dread that dread itself dreads…
They only came once a year, but I’m pretty sure I lost 5 years off my life preparing and worrying about that one day each year. Oh, and did I mention that I wasn’t even required to memorize my recital pieces? Extra goodies were awarded if we did memorize our piece, but the thought of drawing a blank in front of what seemed like the entire population of the world was simply not worth the risk to me.
The week prior to the recital was almost worse than the actual performance. Faaaaar too much time to think, worry, agonize, run away, etc. I’d spend hours each day playing through my piece, fixing rough spots, and tweaking dynamics. Despite my adequate preparation, when the fateful day of the recitals actually came, I had the confidence of a first-time swimmer in a shark tank.
My brothers and I were usually near the end of the recital, which made things about 50 BILLION TIMES WORSE. I would sit and watch each performer get up from their pew and head toward the stage, mentally crossing off each one as my turn approached. I’d look up my mom and dad and think, “They look so calm…why can’t I be calm? Oh, that’s right. BECAUSE I’M ABOUT TO GO UP AND MAKE A FOOL OF MYSELF!” Then the nausea would hit and I’d slump in my seat as I began to sweat and feel my heart beat out of my chest and into the pew in front of me.
Soon enough…it was my turn.
Time would stand still. Everything became silent. No one would move.
I’d get up, feeling as if I was on my way to the electric chair rather than a piano bench.
After what seemed like an eternity, I would arrive at the required pit-stop: a microphone where I was asked to give my name, age, grade in school, and what song(s) I was playing. My cotton-mouth would be so acute by that time, I’d be surprised if anyone actually heard anything that came out of my mouth.
Once at the piano, I’d relax a bit. “This is it, Aaron. After the next few minutes, YOU’RE FREE. But until then…this piano is your life. This pew is your home. This audience is your world.”
Once I started playing, a great relief would surge through me. “Psh, I got this.”
Then comes the first “plunker” as I like to call it. Others would call it a sour note.
At that moment, my capillaries would seal shut and all my blood would flow to my toes, making my shoes feel tighter than they already were. My knees would go weak and my entire leg would start bouncing on the damper pedal. Thus began the epic battle between my body and my brain.
Body: “Quit playing, run to the bathroom, and vomit with embarrassment!!!”
Brain: “I MUST finish the piece or I’ll let my entire family tree down!”
Ya know…things like that.
Anyhow, before I knew it, it was all over. The last chord had been played (the end is always more important than the beginning my teacher would always say!), the audience roared (figuratively, of course), and I would make my way back to my pew with a smile from ear to ear. My body would return to its normal functioning self and I would sit through the rest of the recital without a care in the world.
And then 358 days later…………..it would happen allllllllll over again.
All to say, do I look forward to my future children’s recitals? Yes. Yes, I do. :)
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