For several weeks I knew my accordion recital was looming. But I didn't have that looming feeling of dread. I wasn't nervous or stressed. Mostly I just hoped that I'd practiced "We Three Kings" enough to play thorough it smoothly.
Maybe I'm more becalmed as I age, or maybe it's that I wasn't so concerned about whether the audience, of parents and their musical prodigies, would be super-critical. Of course, it could be my teacher's influence. She's warm and informal and not at all strict. The learning environment she creates is supportive and low-pressure.
In the past I've let my nerves get the better of me. I read my haiku in front of two hundred people a few years ago. My stomach churned so much I stayed in the bathroom until it was my time to stand in front of the crowd. And giving library instruction to college classes, which used to be part of my job, was always unsettling because I'd ruminate on being up in front of those kiddos so much ahead of time that the whole day or two before would be ruined.
Now, mostly, I try not to sweat public speaking, or public performance. Last night was my first ever music recital. I was in plays in grade school, was even the narrator for our grade's Christmas play in second or third grade, and I sang with the chorus in junior high school. I expected no performance problems whatsoever from myself.
This was the first year that Linda's music students played in a public venue. Mostly they show off at Linda's home, a converted barn named Barnegie Hall, and they, and their families, have appointed times to come because her recital space is limited. We played at the Cranberry Thistle, a blue-plate lunch serving restaurant and cafe in Jonesborough, Tenn. Their walls are covered with photos of storytellers who've performed, or eaten, at the Cranberry Thistle, as Jonesborough hosts the National Storytelling Festival each October. They recently moved to a much larger space that used to be Cornbread's Coffeehouse, which had a good sized performance room in the back. And that's where we played.
unlatching the bellows, note Hank Williams poster on wall
Linda invited me up and introduced me. Told the audience, which had dwindled a bit by the time my turn came, that I'd taken lesson for a year and had never played the accordion, never picked one up, prior to my lessons with her. And I think she told them what song I would play for them.
But by then I was in a bubble. I remembered Barry's advice "Breathe In, Breathe Out," which he borrowed from Buddha. It's written on an index card that I carry in my wallet, and I suspected that if I started with a couple of deep breaths, that I'd magically perform like a goddess on accordion, for lack of better imagery.
Who knew my fingers would feel so sticky? During lessons and practice, my fingers practically glide over the piano keyboard. Not last night. They stuck to the keys. And they trembled. I fumbled with bass notes and missed that danged G minor both times. Ian took pictures, but later said he was afraid to use the flash too much for fear it might interrupt me. I never saw the flash though, I was so inside my performance bubble.
During my final lesson Monday Linda told me that I could play the song once through, or twice, or even three times, depending on how I felt in midst of performance. I ran through it twice. At one point, she came over and sat next to me and told me to put fingers from both hands on corresponding G keys/buttons. Twice was enough for me.
Hank watches over my first accordion recital
There was polite applause. I left the stage and returned my accordion to its case while the last student played his piano solo. I sat next to Corrine, a women with whom I've practiced accordion with. After the boy completed his song, Corrine said I'd picked out a difficult song to play. And that the challenge for adult music students is public performance. They expect so much more of themselves than the children do.
And Linda says that sometimes pushing yourself with a challenging piece plus a public performance will enhance your playing in a few weeks time. They made me feel better. I mean, I'm always up for a challenge. And while I don't like to lose, or give an imperfect showing, I realize that I'm human and can only do so much. I'm usually okay with how it comes out in the end.
Anyway, my mom told me I did good. As did Ian. I was glad they were there. I mostly expected to have my mom come and not Ian because his schedule is always so iffy. Whew. So glad that's over.