George became my gallant hero once again, pulling the load of the reception with his steady, oxen-like nerves of steel, chopping carrots and cauliflower, brewing the iced tea, packing serving utensils and plasticware like a pro (I suppose he is a pro, since he's a camp cook). I baked the sugar cookies, brownies, and rice-krispy treats, and for the showpiece, whipped up a couple of large rosemary focaccia loaves to use for our roast beef and swiss cheese finger sandwiches.
I spent a lot of time worrying that my mind would betray me, that I would forget something important or say something stupid to open the recital. I proofread the programs, still hesitant about the multiple last names that some of my students seem to have, doubtful that I picked the correct one.
Mostly, I worried about each student and the performance that they would give in front of the audience. Only two weeks ago, in a series of harrowing lessons, I had been forced to give more than one lecture on the time constraints and the overwhelming amount of work left to be done on their recital pieces. I was practically pulling my hair out, knowing that I couldn't back down and let them out of it for the sake of learning about commitment and following through, but doubting myself all the same for assigning the pieces in the first place. Had I asked too much of them? Was I over their heads? Is it possible that the stress I had created in their lives was too much, and I shouldn't have asked anything of them? I stood my ground, hoping I was right after all.
Since I had chosen to order the students from youngest to oldest this year, my first little girl on the program was up to play "Merrily we Roll Along" on the piano. During her previous lessons, we had a difficult time focusing on getting the hands onto the correct keys and playing the correct sequence of notes. I tried clapping the rhythms with her, and she claimed that clapping made her hands itch. "See?" she would say after clapping, and began scratching the palms of her hands with her teeth. "They itch!" Okay, no clapping. Each lesson unfolded in a similar fashion, with split-second subject changes and random questions. I had been ecstatic to get just thirty seconds of constructive music-making at a time from the five-year-old.
I was anxious to see what she would do for our audience. Much to my surprise, she quietly and respectfully came to the piano, found her place on the keys, and made it through, start to finish, with almost no coaxing at all. My jaw would have dropped, except for the fact that I was grinning so widely.
Each student that followed proved themselves to be more than I had expected. The boy who played his Minuet in G for the first time without stopping, the girl with the stage fright that got back in and found her way to the last chord of her Schumann piece after blanking out, the girl playing the Hungarian Dance who suddenly became animated and entertaining in a way I had never seen before--all of them were admirable. I sighed in relief as the last student performed. I was so proud of them! After so many days that I had doubted myself as a teacher and my ability to grow students, I saw that every one of them had shown themselves capable of doing something that they couldn't have done just one year ago. They are my heroes. And this is what makes it all worthwhile.
I played last, enjoying an unusual sense of peace and light-heartedness, cultivated by the outstanding display from my studio.
And the frosting on the cake? I nailed the cadenza.
But now you have me wondering if my teacher will expect me to play at a recital??? I hadn't considered playing in front of anyone for a long time, if ever. I'm very shy.
About now, I wish I got a break, but it's a seamless junction between the teaching and the cooking for summer camp. And the king salmon are running!
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