A memory I recently found, as told by my fourteen-year-old self

Bar guests at Sanfords, Astoria, January 2016

Bar guests at Sanfords, Astoria, January 2016

It is the spring piano recital and I am nervous. My palms are sweating and I have to go pee, but it’s my turn next. The kid before me has just struck the last note of his piece. It’s the standard low key on the piano. I take a last look at my sheet music and smooth down my black dress.

This year, Mrs. Miller booked the recital hall at the university. It’s about twenty minutes from my house. I peek out at the stage. It’s made of glossy wood, and sitting regally at the center is a shiny black Steinway & Sons.

I feel unworthy even looking at it. This place is for real musicians, not for fourteen-year-old posers like me.

The time has come for me to walk onstage. I pass the kid who has just finished, and he is sweating. His forehead glistens under the stage lights. I attempt to smile at the dimly lit audience while searching for Mom and Dad’s faces. I slide in, not thinking to adjust the bench’s placement. My hands tremble.

Crap, what is the first note of my piece? I forgot the first note!

I approach the keys in an act of faith, and a familiar song starts to play. Relief sweeps over me. It takes a few measures, but I forget the pressure on my bladder or the moistness of my hands. I forget the list of mistakes that I could make, or wondering what people will think of my dress.

Instead, I am transported to the brown upright in our living room, where the smell of mom’s cooking is wafting in from the kitchen. I hear plastic clacking from upstairs, where my younger brothers engage in some fictional battle with their swords. Through an open window, there comes a breeze that whispers the promise of warmer weather, and I inhale the the sweet smell of fresh mountain air.

It is only after I hear the timid beginning of applause that I realize where I am. With a quick bow, I thank the audience and make my way offstage. The next performer walks toward me, and I greet her with a smile.

I wander out into a quiet hallway that is lined with lockers. As I slide down onto the floor, I am reminded of what my drama teacher once told me about actors: that they rarely remember their best performances because they are wholly immersed in their characters. I realize with a smile that I do not remember my time at the piano tonight; but  my dad will tell me later that the father of another piano student complimented my performance.

I guess what my drama teacher said applies to musicians as well.


I am a musician.