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Center Of Attention This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   My first performance in front of anyone except my beloved stuffed dog Snoopy was coming up soon. It was obvious to me, and anyone who happened to be looking in my direction, that this realization had finally hit me. I tried desperately to remain calm and attentive to the person already at the piano, but my deafening heartbeat blocked out all other sounds. I stared down at my lap, passed my already sweat-dripping, trembling hands to my leg, which had begun pumping up and down as if it were jumping on a trampoline, while the rest of my body had sat on the sidelines to watch. I looked up again and scanned the audience, realizing that these were real people, not just Mom and Dad, who would say, "Good job!" even if I messed up the entire piece.

I began to rub my hands slowly together to keep my panic-frozen blood traveling to my fingers. The last thing I needed was paralyzed fingers while all eyes were on me. The roots of my hair felt like a five-alarm blaze when this idea came to mind. With this thought of playing came many more just as frightening and embarrassing. What if I had brought the wrong music? I pulled out the "March of the Wee Folk" and checked three times that this was the piece I was to play. However, other thoughts clouded my thinking too. What if I lost my place? What if I played the wrong notes? As it turned out, I was never able to grant so much as an "I don't know" to these questions because my time was up. The spotlight was waiting for me now. I grasped my hands tightly together, wringing out the accumulated sweat, and carefully checked my music. Slowly I walked to the seemingly monstrous, mud-brown piano in the middle of the room. It contained eighty-eight demanding keys, which were waiting impatiently to be played again. I swallowed the golfball-sized lump in my throat and sat down on the stool.

Cautiously, I opened the music and spread it onto the piano. Next, I rested my continuously trembling hands on the icy-cold ivory keys and began to play. As my fingers slid across the keys, I was becoming more and more unsure of my preparation for this moment, but that terror lasted only a minute. The memory of my year of training came flooding back and I knew that I had practiced this piece so many times that I could play it backwards if requested. Although at one point, I accidentally played two keys instead of the intended one, I continued to move my fingers robotically as my eyes burned holes into the page in front of me. There was absolutely no way that I was going to allow myself to lose my place and my concentration. In order to reinforce this vow, I leaned forward slightly, wrinkled my forehead, and focused carefully on the music in front of me. I came to the end of the page and a warning went off inside my head: DON'T SLIP UP WHEN YOU TURN THE PAGE! Needless to say, I obeyed with all my heart and mind and - proud of my "head-turning" feat of turning the page - managed through the remaining measures of music flawlessly and with the same amount of concentration. After the final note died away, I repeated the "going-to-the-piano" procedure in reverse.

Now settled back in my seat, a celebration went into action inside my head. I was finished. I had conquered the impossible. l


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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