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Karen Allendoerfer

Iron a gi and wear Darth Vader gloves

March 19, 2007 at 10:36 AM

Of course my daughter's karate dojo scheduled her for a belt test yesterday. And she needed a clean, pressed white gi (uniform). But what does she do when she takes off her gi after practice: wad it up and shove it in a drawer!

Nothing like spending the time you thought you were going to be spending warming up your viola ironing a gi.

I finally get to the church, 5 minutes late, and the pianist says "I was about to call you!" I go through the Bach, we go through the Vierne. It sounds pretty good. The first time through I mess up some intonation at the end of the Prelude. Ugh. Cold hands are a curse. I do it again. It's better. I do the Courante and it's really good. The room is starting to warm up. I put on my new leather gloves while I wait.

During "greet your neighbor," I shake hands with the minister because I'm sitting on stage. I apologize for the Darth Vader gloves. "Don't worry, you don't look anything like Darth Vader!" the pianist says. But I don't care if I do, my hands are warm. The offertory (the Courante) goes by pretty fast and I don't do the second repeat. And the Vierne, the meditation, is among the best I've ever played it. The shifts are in tune, the sustained notes have substance. The pianist and I make phrases together.

And I find I can think. My brain has a long history of going AWOL, of just checking out, during performances. I would hear the first notes and it would disappear in a haze of anxiety and my cold hands would be left to fend for themselves. Not this time.

Several people after the performance asked if the Bach was "hard." It's not a student piece but I wouldn't say it's hard. A kid asked me how long I'd been playing the viola, he'd been playing a year. That's hard to say. Nine months 7 years ago, plus the last 6 months. Plus 34 years of on-and-off violin (but more off than on). How meaningful is any of that? That warped time sense again--time is either now or not now.

My friend who is a professional violinist and violist was very complimentary. It means a lot coming from her. She suggested we perform the Bach double together at some point.

Getting home, facing the week at work, I'm now feeling a real let-down. I want to perform again. I want to play the Bach double, which I haven't played since 1979. It's addictive, and it's highly motivating. I wish performing had been like this for me when I was a student instead of the harrowing ordeal it always turned out to be. Even little things, like playing for family or in church or for friends, were exercises in misery and stress. While auditions and sectionals were the stuff of weeks of dread.

I find myself musing about brain development. Am I just discovering the pleasures of performing at my advanced age because of maturity? Or is it something else, such as successful ADD treatment? Or motherhood? Why is it so backwards? Aren't kids and teenagers supposed to be the ones with that youthful confidence and feeling of invincibility (something I never, ever understood or felt at that age)? Not that that's what I feel now, exactly, either. I still have insecurities and doubts and I know there's plenty about my playing that can be improved. But they're manageable, they don't dominate my thinking or render me a basket case. I just feel more "normal" somehow, like I've gotten a huge monkey off my back.

I got home to find out my daughter passed her test. She's now an orange belt.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on March 19, 2007 at 2:55 PM
Hi Karen,

Congratulations on a job well done.

I have also gotten more comfortable performing as I get older. Not mature, mind you, but older! I was fearless as a child, but a total basket case as a teen, and that is not unusual. I see it in my students all of the time.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 19, 2007 at 3:10 PM
I was never fearless. Never.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on March 19, 2007 at 3:16 PM
I hope you have already scheduled a time with your professional friend to start working on the Bach Double. What a great opportunity!

I was never fearless and still am not fearless. I probably never will be. the nature of the fear changes as you mature, that's all.

From Karin Lin
Posted on March 19, 2007 at 5:21 PM
Ah kids...they're so good at messing up our lives, but they're sooo worth it. :)

I like playing for my church too, but they're such a friendly audience that I almost don't think they're a "real" audience...sort of like playing for my family. I hope you do play the Bach Double, though!

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