Tuesday, November 20, 2012


After a humiliating experience at the ripe old age of 10 or 11, I realized that the life of a concert pianist was not for me: my hands weren't large enough, my fingers couldn't move fast enough, and even the slightest hint of failure would paralyze me. So after about 35 years, I found myself in a curious predicament.  The pianist/organist at church was moving and although there were two other really REALLY good pianists - sometimes they had other things to do on Sunday - like vacation or getting sick.  So in a moment of unprecedented self-confidence, I volunteered to play as needed.

It's not that I can't play or that I won't play, its just that over those 35 years, I developed some really bad habits:  my fingering was horrible, I adjusted the timing to accommodate my poor fingering, I played in Beth-time, and possibly worst of all......I developed the habit of cursing like a sailor everytime I made a mistake.  NOT acceptable in most public places, especially church.

So I avoided anyone who I thought would take me up on my offer.  And it worked for a while.  But there came a day that our pianist really did move, and one of the organists was going to be on vacation. And as I was needed.  Yikes.  So I practiced and practiced and practiced.  The first Sunday wasn't too bad.  I didn't play loud. At all.  The organist was an absolute angel and played very slow (and very loud) for me.  So I felt pretty well hidden.  The second Sunday that I played, I practiced and practiced and practiced.  That Sunday however, I hit a maximum of 5 correct notes the entire service (but I didn't swear - not even on the inside).

The next Sunday came around and the music had changed.  The music that I had practiced throughout the week was not the music that was in the bulletin to be played.  And what a blessing that was!  After an initial panic attack accompanied by some whining, I just sat down and played.  And I played better than I had either of the Sundays before.  I think this was because I was so concerned with the change in the music, I didn't even worry about how I was going to play.

I'm hoping that someday I'll be able to play without sweating like a lumberjack but until then, I've learned some important things:  that people really mean it that the best place to screw up the piano is among friends (preferably friends who don't play the piano so then you can exaggerate about how incredibly hard it is :)), that sometimes you really are your own worst enemy, that you don't have to be the best at something to do it with all your heart.

I'll never be as good as I expect myself to be, but I am quite certain that I will be as good as I am supposed to be.

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