Practice Makes Perfect This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

March 19, 2012
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Nine minutes and forty-three seconds. That’s how long my recital piece is. At the end, the hall erupts with applause, but I don’t really care. I bow graciously, like I’ve done since I was four years old, my instrument tucked against my side, my bow hanging parallel to my legs, and I return to my seat.


They’re still clapping. I guess after nine minutes and forty-three seconds, I deserve a lengthy ovation. My mom, sitting in the straight-backed chair next to me, doesn’t clap. She doesn’t pat me on the back and whisper congratulations like the other parents do. But I know she’s happy. These recitals are, after all, as much her time to shine as they are mine.


I hate violin. I hate it for the thirteen years of resentful practicing, my mom shoving the curved wooden body under my quivering chin. I hate it for the teacher whose house smelled like onions, so bad it made your eyes water. I hate it for the tape cassettes that played over the whiny car stereo, for my blistered fingers as I learned vibrato, for the way I was scolded for touching the moon-colored horse hairs on my bow. I hate it for the wiry purple music stand my dad hurled across the room at me, that night he came home all red in the face.


And most of all I hate it because I’m good at it. Practicing two hours a day, 365 days a year, for thirteen years—yeah, I’m good; my mom made sure of that. I’m so good, that of course I’m first chair in the orchestra. Of course I’m getting a music scholarship to Juilliard. Of course I play nine minute and forty-three second recital pieces without a single mistake. Of course.


I remember the glossy pamphlet I brought home when I was in seventh grade, advertising a week-long science workshop for girls. My biology teacher had handed it to me after summoning me to his desk at the end of class that day. I kept it under my pillow for a whole week before I summoned up the courage to show it to Mom.


“Science camp?” she asked, throwing half a glance in my direction. “Why would you want to do that? Go practice.”


Go practice, go practice, go practice. I don’t care that you have straight A’s in science—go practice. I don’t care that you want to talk to me about that cute boy in your math class—go practice. Your dad hit you again last night?—go practice. Practice, practice, practice and it will all go away. Pretend nothing else matters. Just practice.


And so I did. I practiced until I could play any piece flawlessly. I practiced, so that my perfect performances would compensate for everything else in life that was so not perfect.


Because as we all know, practice makes perfect.





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