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Thinking about Performance

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I really dislike performing.  No, scratch that.  I like to perform but it scares the {expletive} out of me.  There I said it.  I’m not good enough.  Someone will judge me.  After all, I should be a flawless pianist.  I’m a teacher aren’t I?

The Back Story

There’s always a back story, huh?  Here’s mine.  I used to love performing, and I did a lot of it.   I performed in musicals galore (ALWAYS the comedy lead).  I sang in many, many solo competitions, and achieved high honors.  I sang opera in college … in fact, I was once Cinderella!  I spent many evenings traveling with the college recruitment show choir.

Voice has always been my primary instrument, and voice lessons gave me invaluable music interpretation skills.  Piano, moreover, was always right there to accompany me.  Oh, how I loved jamming and singing to Elton John and Billy Joel!   Yes, that was my era.  Your Song, Piano Man.  

This, I think, is why I love to teach chord reading and improvisation.  I taught it to myself.  Musical interpretation and improvisation comes from the soul.

I had a lot of wedding gigs in my ‘everyone’s getting married’ stage.  Did I mention that I sang to Don at my own wedding?

The Defining Moment

Fast forward about 10 years, and the defining moment occurred.  It’s called a stroke.  My motor functions disappeared.  Ugh.  In rehab, I wished to be that stroke victim who walked aimlessly around the room.  You see, he could walk; I could not.

One day, I voiced my angst to my therapist.  There, I learned the truth.  He had lost all memory of himself and others.  I’ll take my losses.  Thank you very much.

I probably had one of the more creative occupational therapy rehabilitations ever done at the hospital.  My occupational therapist rolled a piano into a hospital ‘community’ room, and allowed me to practice.  

I remember my very first time at the piano in the hospital.  America,  Alfred’s Adult Lesson Book, Level 1Humbling.

This was my fate.  My brain knew exactly what to do.  My fingers, however, would not cooperate.  No how.  No way.  I just could not make them move to where they needed to go.  

The Practice.

I practiced for hours.  Days.  Months.  And, my physical rehab continues in this way to this day.  If I take a week off, I regress.  

And so it is on the piano.   But, the real issue is that I’m a mom;  in fact I have been for the past 24 years (really, has it been that long?).  I do mom things.  Exercise, cook, clean, taxi, teach piano lessons.  

Hmm...this leaves exactly zero minutes to practice on most days.

Oh, did I mention that the young adult who lives in my house and eats my food, happens to run a highly noise sensitive recording studio in my basement?  So, when students aren’t playing, son #2* frowns upon the extra noise that playing my piano might make.  

...Make that a negative zero minutes to practice.  And so, I regress.

The Feelings.

Today, I acknowledge that in just the right season, my piano will be there for me.  I’ll have all of the time I need to practice.  

I love to perform, but because I aim for perfection, I always seem to miss the mark.  Really, this happens to all of us.

I recently heard a quote:  “Your performance does not determine your self worth.”  Yes, yes.   “Now believe it, self!”

Music, playing the piano, is so much more than hitting the right note at the right time.  It is therapy, escape, hope.

Playing music is about stirring the emotion in our souls.  Music  has a way of entering in, swirling itself around, and clearing the cobwebs that have taken up residence in our souls.  

So, there it is.  It’s simple, but not easy.

“Your performance does not determine your self worth...your perfection does not determine your self worth .”

*Note: Since writing this post, son #2 (as referenced above) has moved his music production studio to Detroit (less quiet, more practice time for me).  And, as children do, my offspring are moving on and require much less taxi driving.  I still spend much time in my kitchen, because .... well, that's what I do.   

2 thoughts on “Thinking about Performance

  1. Marilyn, I love this!!! I am an Occupational Therapist and it always makes me smile when someone has something good to say about the profession. We are often misunderstood in the medical community. I loved your message even more! Hard work and determination are awesome attributes to have but we are imperfect human beings…that is okay.

    1. I had the best OT, PT, and Physical Medicine team working with me! Thank you for allowing me to teach your son. He is a shining light to me 🙂

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