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Emily Grossman

Recital Day

December 6, 2010 at 1:41 AM

Three hours to go.  My fingers tingled a bit as I warmed up on the treadmill, and I trained my focus onto my breathing and heart rate.  I kept the workout short, but intense, so as to burn off some of the adrenaline coursing through my veins.   After I cooled down and hit the shower, I sipped some post-workout drink, ate a banana and a pb and molasses sandwich for good luck, and rounded up my stuff for the church.

All along, I'd been shaking off thoughts of bow spasms and finger lock-ups, trying to keep a positive outlook and making sure to take deep breaths.  I'd been trembling and sick with nerves all morning.  But then a peculiar thing happened.  I walked into the sanctuary to put my music on the stand and paused to envision my audience in the empty pews.  Suddenly, I knew everything was going to be just fine. 

6:55 pm, December 3rd: I was wearing my red dress, my fingers were warm, dry, and limber, my pulse even and calm.  The last few minutes ticked away as I warmed up in the sunday school room while the audience trickled in.  Sixty, eighty, over a hundred people took their seats for the show.  And then it was time. 

After over a year since its conception and hundreds of hours of preparation, I'd made it to Recital Day, and I couldn't wait to finally share my music.  Maria Allison and I walked in and received our applause with a gracious bow.  The positive thoughts and prayers flooding the room overwhelmed me.  I felt euphoric. 

Thus, we began Beethoven's Spring.

I'm not saying it was perfect--of course it wasn't: I'm not perfect.  But I was fully in the moment, well rehearsed, and completely confident.  The minor flaws, instead of sandbagging my focus, became inconsequential in the big scope of things.  Senses sharpened, my ears guided supple fingers to their places, my throat moving the melody lines as though they were being sung.  I felt almost telepathic with Maria during the Brahms. 

Something else happened which is difficult to describe, and has never happened during a performance before. As I played the Brahms, it was as if some sort of sixth sense alerted me to a specific audience member--someone watching who was connected personally to this piece. Encouraged by the common ground, I communicated to that person in full understanding. Though the G Major Sonata plumbs the depths of the emotional spectrum, I managed to express it without trembling--right up until those last two double stops, which proved difficult to execute over the lump in my throat.

By the time we made it to the Sarasate, I was so relieved to be finishing so well, I played almost fearlessly.  My nemesis, the false harmonics, still got the best of me, but I recovered the second half of them in time to launch into the arpeggios. 

My only regret of the evening was that I didn't prepare an encore.  After three trips back to the front and an armful of roses, it felt awkward to offer them nothing but my heartfelt thanks.  (I'll take note next time to make time to prepare one.)

After the show, I met a woman who'd been advertising my concert on the local classical radio program, as well as a reporter for the local newspaper, who interviewed me for an article.  So many people!  My students were there.  My coffee shop friends were there.  Many unfamiliar faces were introducing themselves now.  It felt odd to be so suddenly thrust into the limelight after so many months of reclusive behavior; I'd avoided all social activities in pursuit of practice time.  I greeted and thanked them all a bit awkwardly, but sincerely nevertheless.  My upstairs neighbors invited me to tea.  With the recital over, perhaps I'll enter back into the social world, get back to a somewhat normal life again.  ...Whatever that is.

And then, a stranger approached through the crowd and introduced himself.  "I'm a doctor here in Soldotna, but I played the violin through college.  The Brahms G Major Sonata was the last piece I learned before putting it aside for med school."  He'd seen my posters around town and came, eager to hear it played once more.  (This performance marks the first ever of the Brahms G Major in its entirety in Soldotna.) 

He said it was a pleasure to meet me--although, I don't know if he was aware that I'd already connected with him earlier that evening.  We chatted briefly, and then he was gone.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on December 6, 2010 at 3:12 AM

Cool Bravo all this is great for you!


From Keith Laurie
Posted on December 6, 2010 at 6:05 AM

Thank you for the wonderful evening!  And the Brahms was indeed exceptional. We are so fortunate to have you and Maria in our community. I am already looking forward to your next recital.

From E. Smith
Posted on December 6, 2010 at 6:19 AM

 Congratulations! You write so beautifully and you play so beautifully (I know first hand!) I've been looking forward to your post-recital blog. 

From Tom Holzman
Posted on December 6, 2010 at 1:51 PM

What a wonderful experience for you!  So glad to hear the recital went so well.  I think that if you can acheive the sort of special connection you had with the doctor with one person in the audience, that is what it is all about.  I hope your next recital will go even better.

From Jim Hastings
Posted on December 7, 2010 at 4:37 PM

I know the feeling; there's nothing quite like connecting with the listeners -- or just one particular person in the audience.  I would have liked to hear your recital myself.  You definitely took me on a journey and brought back some good memories.  Thanks for sharing.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on December 7, 2010 at 8:15 PM

Thanks everyone!  And thanks for coming, Keith, glad you enjoyed it.  I'm already thinking about my next pieces, but they probably won't take the stage until 2012.  (I know, long way off, but it takes a while...)

From Bill Busen
Posted on December 7, 2010 at 9:13 PM

As you were playing Sarasate, we're going to have to ask you to produce a receipt for that red dress.  ;-)

From Emily Grossman
Posted on December 7, 2010 at 9:23 PM

It seems I lost it.  ;)

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on December 8, 2010 at 7:17 PM

 That connection you felt with the audience member is so cool.  What a fascinating and moving experience!  

From Blaine Nierman
Posted on December 9, 2010 at 6:32 PM

....pb and molasses? I am having a hard time connecting with that...pb and nutella, banana, honey, any of the above...well, maybe I will have to broaden my palatable spectrum and give it a try...

From Emily Grossman
Posted on December 9, 2010 at 8:43 PM

Molasses is a superfood.  One tablespoon has more potassium than a large banana, more iron than a 6 oz steak, and more calcium than half a cup of milk, making it a perfect pre-recital food.  But I eat pb and molasses because it's tasty.

From Blaine Nierman
Posted on December 10, 2010 at 12:56 AM

ok...talked me into it...I drink this wheat grass drink with spirolina and a bunch of other stuff...if I can stomach that...

From Emily Grossman
Posted on December 10, 2010 at 11:02 AM

Make sure it's blackstrap.

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