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Sunday, March 2, 2014


Lessons Learned

The First Recital

Six years old with a brand new dress, curled hair adorned with a complimentary bow, and fancy patent-leather shoes; the world was perfect in this moment and this little girl’s smile matched the shining sun. Recital day was here. But for one who had never been to a piano recital, who didn’t fully comprehend what was in store, this experience to this point resembled a lovely and very special party. The simple sweet piano selection was memorized and had been for many weeks. The Princess Waltz was the ideal selection for an occasion such as this very first recital. We were to bring the music with us to the recital.  My family was dressed up and ready to travel to the downtown YWCA where the recital was to occur in a large reserved auditorium. Upon arrival, we noticed that the auditorium was fast filling with supportive family and friends, quietly finding suitable seats and engaging in hushed, congenial conversations along the way. All of the piano students, at least fifty of us, were to convene at the front of the hall, near the stage upon which we were to present our selections on the huge shiny black grand piano which sat front and center. Our teacher, a stern perfectionist-type retired concert pianist, organized us into our seating order with a wave of her hand. We were to play in our age order, which meant I was to play first. At the appointed time and following necessary salutations and recognitions, our teacher commenced the recital. Silence. My name was called. My patent-leather shoes clicked on the tile floor all the way to the stage steps, which I ascended with The Princess Waltz in my hands.  She stood at the top of the stage stairs, at the corner of the stage rather like one of the guards at Buckingham Palace and collected music as the performers, in this particular instance me, proceeded to the Steinway and prepared to play. Silence. My patent-leathers couldn’t reach the pedals, the gravity of the situation descended around that piano bench with oppressive heaviness, and in that painful silence a six year old’s mind went blank; The Princess Waltz was absolutely nowhere to be found. From her corner, after an eternity of silence, the sentry-teacher began heralding each note of The Princess Waltz to me as one might call off bingo numbers. The gentle musical flow of that sweet song was fully lost in the punctuated call and response playing. She could have brought me my music but she did not. Crushing mortification. Crushing. And then it was done before anyone could fix it.  In the shocked silence that accompanied my clicking walk from the piano to the sentry’s  corner to collect the illusive music, one didn’t dare make eye contact with anyone in the room for each one unequivocally understood with brimming tears the depth of hurt which had just occurred. I didn’t return to my seating order and didn’t ask permission either, my party dress and I, instead, found our way to my family where on daddy’s lap I melted into a puddle of embarrassment. Sometimes, hopefully not too often, our lessons are learned through circumstances that break and hurt.