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I'm Not a Kid Anymore

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Tonight, I performed in public for the first time in nearly 20 years. Performing in public has always been an exhilarating experience. But tonight was different. Tonight was about doing something I had never been able to do as a kid--or as a piano major in college, including 1 year in the rough, tough, and cut-throat conservatory environment.

And that difference is this: being able to appreciate and enjoy the experience.

Don't get me wrong. I was nervous as all get out. There were 18 performers in all, including myself. The first up tonight was a girl who couldn't have been older than 6. She played two pieces that were appropriate for her age from memory. But her memory failed her several times. Once, she looked at the audience. A few other times, she looked over to her mother. She looked full of fright the whole time.

I thought to myself: I remember that feeling.

Several kids had problems performing their pieces from memory. I felt so deeply for them. I've been there. I've done that. I've felt that. Several performed with music in front of them. One boy, who performed a beautiful arrangement based on Pachelbel's Canon I had never heard, a boy with some talent, used music. But he was so close to having the piece memorized that he got away from the score as he performed it, got a little lost, tried to find his spot in the score, and just couldn't. He was so upset.

I remember that feeling.

Then a little girl named Rebecca Li played Sicilienne by Faure on the flute. She played with music in front of her. But she was so solid and performed her piece so beautifully. NOTE TO SELF: It really CAN be done.

Another girl named Heidi, probably about 14, performed the Bach Solfeggieto quite masterfully. Then she teamed with her teacher to do the four-hand version of Moszkowski's Spanish Dance #1. I don't know if they were having fun, but I was having fun listening to it. NOTE TO SELF: It's not so much about doing it. It's about enjoying what you do.

Then came the girl before me. She performed a Dvorak Humoresque. But I wasn't laughing. Don't get me wrong. She performed it admirably. But this was the point where I felt my heart pounding, worried that others around me might be able to hear it. I felt like the old cartoon character--Tom, of Tom & Jerry--when he saw the beautiful female cat and his heart is pounding outside of his chest. That's how I felt. I was completely panicked.

I said a quick prayer. Something like, "Lord, I haven't done this in 20 years. Please give me peace. Please help me perform to my potential. But most importantly, please help me enjoy this moment."

When I finished the intro bars to the piece, before the intro of the opening melody, and it had gone perfectly, I remembered something Elisa said to me the other day: Enjoy it. And that's what I did.

I didn't perform perfectly. No one ever does. I had a small number of wrong notes, but they weren't important notes. I had some notes that didn't sound. That's going to happen with a fast piece when you're trying to play softly. It wasn't the end of the world. No one noticed. But my memory never failed me. Another big difference from when I was a kid. I'm older, have a better sense of the piece structure, more discipline, just more and better everything.

When I was a kid performing in recitals--and we're talking serious, full-length recitals, not a 3-minute piece like what I did tonight--I never enjoyed it. If I had known and felt THEN what I know and feel now, my God, how different it may have been. When I was trying to survive in a tough and competitive conservatory environment, what if I had then realized that it's not about winning. It's not about being the best. It's about being the best me I can be. And it's about enjoying and savoring the challenges we take on in life. And in the future, I need to remember that this is still applicable when I don't play well. The most important thing is to enjoy the experience. To enjoy the moment.

After the piece was over and I was taking my bow as about 100 people applauded, I felt very overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the love and support that got me through this. Overwhelmed by the fact that there are people in this world--most of whom I've never met in person--who genuinely want me to succeed. I had this as a kid but I didn't recognize it or see it or appreciate it. Now I recognize it. And see it. And appreciate it. And it makes all the difference in the world.

But most of all, I was overwhelmed by the value of experience, maturity, and years. When I was a kid/young adult, I thought I knew everything. Tonight, I was confronted with the reality that, just as has been the case with every other aspect of my life as I have gotten older and a little wiser, when it comes to piano and performing as a kid, I knew nothing. Nothing at all. Because I failed to enjoy the moment.

I'll hopefully have an audio recording of tonight's performance in the next day or two. I promise to share it. Not because it's perfect. Because it's not. But because I'm hoping someone will hear it and listen to it through the lens of what I've just described--and feel compelled to try to do something they didn't think they had in them to accomplish. And enjoy the experience.

Thanks, as always, for listening.

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  1. owendonovan's Avatar
    Nice, very nice Dry. You've articulated something very much akin to how I've felt about my coaching, thank you and congratulations.
  2. Jay's Avatar
    So incredibly proud of you, Dry. Thanks for sharing this as well. I'd recommend copy and pasting this into a note on facebook and posting it. It's an inspirational blog post.
    Also, *E-Bearhug*
  3. elisat's Avatar
    Giving advice is easy. Applying it to oneself is the tough part. I agree with Jessie. This is really inspiring. Thank you Dry.
  4. ponchi101's Avatar
    Lovely piece, Dry.
  5. JTContinental's Avatar
    Congrats! One down and many more to come!
  6. shtexas's Avatar
  7. Scotty's Avatar
  8. morct's Avatar
    Fantastic, well done. You should be very proud of yourself.

  9. Charlie02123's Avatar
    I'm so glad you were able to experience that (before the end of the world).
  10. James7's Avatar
    Seems like life is made of a succession of "Wow, I never realized how wrong I had it" moments. Eventually, you'll look back at this moment with a different appreciation too. But for now, sounds like you have it right for where you are.
  11. dryrunguy's Avatar
    Thanks to all for their responses.

    You make a great point, James. Reminds me of a Golden Girls episode where Sophia says, "You kids get to be 60 and you think you know everything!"
  12. atlpam's Avatar
    enjoyed reading this and can definitely relate. I took piano lessons for 3 years at a conservatory and have mixed feelings about recitals - hot day, having to wear a long dress, with no air conditioning. I did enjoy the 2 piano/8 hands piece we did one year of Pomp & Circumstance, but I didn't touch the piano for over a year after I stopped taking lessons. Fortunately I returned to it for my own enjoyment although I don't play much these days. I'm thrilled that you have been able to return to it as an adult and appreciate the experience in a way most of us can't do when we're younger.
  13. manolo's Avatar
    Thanks for sharing, dry, and congratulations! looking forward to hear it!
  14. waylandboy-tw's Avatar
    I really enjoyed reading this and would love to hear the audio too. Thanks so much for sharing!
  15. dryrunguy's Avatar
    Wayland, I posted the audio in the Hobbies thread, I think. But here it is just to make it easy.