Sunday, April 26, 2009

Oh man.

Oh, I wish I could tell you that the recital went perfectly. That I played the piece the way I wanted to play it.

The only thing I can say in my defense is that the teacher arranged us by age, rather than by skill level/level of experience.

So I was very nearly at the end. After two lovely young women - much younger than me - who played complex Bach pieces flawlessly. And I shouldn't have thought it, but I did: my little piece is going to look mighty simple next to these.

Then I got up there. And my hands started shaking. And I could not stop them from shaking. And I played - bungled my way through the piece. I stopped counting at three mistakes. I somehow made it through. But I felt like an IDIOT. The worst kind of an IDIOT. I feel like those people who go on American Idol and can't sing would feel if they actually had some sense of their own lack of talent.

I'm going to tell my piano teacher on Tuesday that if she wants to fire me as a student, I will understand.

Walking out of there, I felt exactly like Charlie Brown did - in that special ("A Boy Named Charlie Brown," I think) where by some fluke he winds up going to the national spelling bee - and then totally messing up and being eliminated. And that one shot, of him walking back to the hotel, all alone, defeated - and the way it's animated, so he's very small against a looming gray background of the city - that's exactly how I felt. All alone. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could, in the hopes that people might just forget how badly I played. (There were a couple people there I knew; one person from my AAUW group there for her granddaughters. And, worst of all, one of the music profs. Gah. I really do feel like one of those American Idol rejects who gets up and screeches or has no sense of rhythm or anything, and yet they have somehow convinced themselves that they could perform.)

If a relative of mine were to call me up this moment and ask me if I'd ever consider giving them the piano, I'd ask them when they could get the movers here.

Gah. I suck. I wanted to do such a good job but my damn brain sabotaged me despite my telling myself that my mighty powers of kinesthetic memory would override any nervousness I had.

The thing that kills me? Just to convince myself I didn't have, I don't know, a stroke or something while I was sitting waiting to play, and totally lost whatever dexterity I had, I tried playing the piece when I got home.

Dammit, I could play it. I could play it just fine.

So: recital - something I am never ever going to do again. Not even if my teacher promises to rank people by years of experience rather than age.

(ETA: Here's what I was referring to. I guess he was heading back to the bus, not the hotel. And the tiny-figures-against-huge-buildings is just a split second shot, but I guess it must have affected me, to bore into my memory like that - it's probably been 25 or more years since I saw this particular Charlie Brown special.

I suppose I can at least take comfort in the fact that I did not scream, "AUUUUUGGGGH!" at the end of playing the piece badly.)


Charlotte said...

Don't be so hard on yourself. You're a new piano student and couldn't be expected to perform at the same level as someone who has been playing in public for years. I do think the teacher could have arranged things in a better way so your performance would have been heard in concert with your performance peers. Having to wait so long to play no doubt added to your nervousness. It will be interesting to read whatever comments your teacher might make about the recital at your next lesson.

Anonymous said...

Oh no, don't beat yourself up! You get so much credit in my book for just getting up there and performing. (I couldn't do it.) It was just a case of stage fright, mostly likely easily overcome if you perform enough (which you may not choose to do). Please don't let it diminish your pleasure and pride in your accomplishments.

-- Grace in MA

AvenSarah said...

Oh, please don't be so upset about it! I do understand the feelings of embarrassment and frustration -- I've felt both, plenty of times, when doing performances (I did piano recitals all through my childhood, and then voice recitals as an undergrad). But the essence of performance is that it ISN'T the same as sitting in your own living room and playing for your own enjoyment; it's a whole other skill. One that you may, or may not, decide is worth working on; you may well feel that the rewards of performance are not worth the effort (I eventually found that was true for me) but you shouldn't feel bad because you weren't perfect at it (performing, I mean, not the playing of the piece) the first time.
And I know that you've had lots of practice at some types of 'performance' -- teaching being the obvious one -- but it's not necessarily transferable. I got over my 'teaching' nervousness much faster than my nervousness about recitals.
All to say -- I'm sure you're feeling bad now, but please don't let it ruin piano-playing for you!

Lydia said...

Nobody else there knew the piece as well as you did. Things that may have seemed horrible to you may not even have been noticed by anyone else;

I really agree with what the other commenters said. Performance is very different from playing for enjoyment; the last set of singing lessons I took were entirely focused on performance rather than technique, and that series ran for months.

You've been working really hard, but with your entire focus on technique. The traditional students probably have had an eye to performance the entire time; the kids are thinking about college auditions and all-states and picking up money playing at parties and so on (judging from the music students I've known) while you're refining your playing skills.

I'm impressed by you. Your progress has been fun to follow, and it's inspirational seeing you picking it up for the joy of it. Please don't let this take away your joy.

Anonymous said...

Part of the purpose of doing a recital is to get experience in performance, which is different than playing by yourself. I still get very nervous if I do a duet, or a small solo, or accompany the choir (I play recorder at a pretty serious recreational level). One time I got really cold towards the end of the repeat (trio) and was thinking really hard "we're NOT repeating the B section we're NOT repeating the B section", which it's good we didn't because I was almost hyperventilating.

And as my recorder teacher used to say, if it has to be perfect, what's the point of Live Performance?

Big kudos for doing the recital. Keep up with the lessons and enjoy playing for yourself!


Sya said...

I'm really impressed that you're doing this. Other people would rather live vicariously through their kids than exert the effort themselves. Hopefully, you might reconsider and not judge all recitals from one experience.