One of the reasons so many adult amateurs are nervous about playing in public is that we think that people will think poorly of us if we aren’t perfect. I know I feel that way. But I think that line of thinking might be wrong. Fellow amateurs, I have good news. We aren’t being judged.
In my year and a half of playing, I have only played in public a very few times, and that only in jam sessions with people I already knew, or felt comfortable with. Last Friday, I played to an audience for the very first time. Sure, people might have listened before, but we were practicing, darn it. No one expects practice to be flawless. And yes, the program was only a medley of simple Christmas carols in a church with the parents of the local arts academy in attendance. So what? It was my first performance. That’s a big deal to anyone.
Maybe it helped that I was playing with seven children between the ages of five and eleven so I got to stand in the back. Most of them were better than me. I’m fine with that. They have been playing longer, after all. What I really liked was the feeling of acceptance. It didn’t bother them a jot that I was there, or that I screwed up a few string crossings.
I expected to be nervous, and I was a little. I didn’t want to make any mistakes, but I made a few. What surprised me was the feeling that it was all OK. Nobody expected perfection. If I forgot all about rest position, nobody cared. If I got the bowing wrong, at least the notes were mostly right. I might have felt a bit silly playing with a group of children, but they ARE better than me. It’s always good to play with folks who are better than you, I have found.
So I think I have learned a few lessons:
1. Performances don’t have to be scary.
2. Nobody is judging. Even if they were, what could they do – take away your birthday?
3. The better prepared you are, the easier it is to focus.
4. Four inch stiletto heels for a performance are a BAD plan. Ouch!
The best part is that I didn’t even start shaking until we left the stage. Maybe it was relief. I might have to jump a few hurdles every time I perform, but at least now I know I can.
The holiday season is my favorite time of year. I love brisk days that hint at snow, festive lights, the excitement in the air, and Christmas trees. My family laughs at me because I put them up in almost every room in the house. There’s even a four foot pink feather tree that gets set up in my cubical at work which sort of looks like Barbie exploded on my desk, but I love it.
I cling to Christmas. I crave it like a drowning person craves air. Because Christmas spells hope, and this is the season when I need it the most. It seems as if we always lose people this time of year. A few days before this Thanksgiving, we lost my mom in a tragic car accident. In another few days, we recognize the 29th anniversary of losing dad. In the intervening years we have lost so many other family members, usually during the holidays. In fact, when my siblings and I were at the funeral home making mom’s arrangements, the director wondered how we could be so calm and agreeable. It’s easy, we said. Nearly everyone else in our family has died. We’re experts at this.
As sad as we all are, we can’t forget to celebrate. If nothing else, our children need the normalcy. We can’t sit around in our house staring at the funeral flowers every night, after all. So last night I took my boys to the University of Richmond symphony orchestra concert to see my violin instructor play. While it wasn’t holiday music, it was still an excuse to dress up and do something special. It was my children’s first time experiencing an orchestra, and they enjoyed it. Not enough to want to take part, they said. They still think being in a rock band would be more cool, but they enjoyed the music despite the fact that there was no lead guitar. At least the opera singer was pretty, they pointed out.
Following the program, we spoke with my instructor. I haven’t been to a lesson in two weeks and we were trying to schedule something on the fly. He has so many obligations this time of year, so many demands for his skill that it’s difficult to find a mutually good time. He suggested we might meet at a church near me this week, and I could play carols in the church program that evening after the lesson. Perfect. I need that. Playing carols at Christmas makes it feel like my world is turning right side up again.
We might have funeral flowers instead of trees, and cardboard boxes of mom’s things instead of colorfully wrapped presents, but we have each other. And we have Christmas carols, and festive lights to see, and maybe (just maybe) a hint of snow in the air.
More entries: November 2013
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings
Violinist.com Summer Music Programs Directory
ARIA International Summer Academy
Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine