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Practice Makes Perfect
When I was nine, my mother signed me up for my first piano class. In her dreams, I would grow up performing for the President or a celebrity, maybe one day even obtaining a spot in the famed Philharmonic. To me, it was a waste of time. I would rather have spent my Saturday learning a sport. A few years later and I am still playing the piano. It’s not a specific passion, not a hobby; it’s something I’ve grown accustomed to doing. But what was the point of learning how to play if I couldn’t show off my skills? That was a question my mom wondered about. Every chance she got she would try and have me perform in front of people, whether it was a PTA meeting or a family reunion; her main objective was to get me on that pedestal and play. I declined every chance I could in fear of failing. I’ve had stage fright for as long as I can remember. Every time I’m on a stage, my stomach churns and my whole body shakes. The last time I played in public, I messed up a lot, and my nerves were uncontrollable. It was a feeling that I never wanted to experience again.
During my freshmen year of high school, a call came in December when my friend’s dad asked me if I would like to play at the school graduation. He was hoping to get a small group of the school’s alumni to play a song for the graduating class and remembered that I played the piano. I told him that I didn’t like playing in front of people, but he assured me that this was going to be a small crowd. I turned him down. I knew that I was missing out on a great opportunity, but my fear got the best of me. I told my mom about the opportunity, she was disappointed that I turned it down. After hearing her reaction, I doubted my decision and realized that maybe I should’ve said yes. It was useless that I changed my mind now; I had already referred him to other pianist. Though I was upset, I promised myself that I wouldn’t turn down an offer like this ever again.
Someone must have heard my promise when my friend’s dad called me in February again. At first, seeing his caller ID on the phone made me not want to pick up. But after a few missed calls, I called back. He asked me if I would reconsider my choice of playing at the graduation and I said, “Yes.” I told him that after much thought, I would love to play at the school’s graduation, and it would’ve been a good way to conquer my stage fright. He was ecstatic.
“The first practice is scheduled for tomorrow, and I’ll have your sheet music by then,” he said.
“Sure, I can’t wait for tomorrow!”
The next day, I went to my first rehearsal and saw whom I was playing with. It turned out; they were all friends from middle school. Each of them also had different instruments to incorporate into the song. We were performing “Chrysanthemum Terrace,” a lovely ballad from an old Chinese movie. In the beginning, we all practiced by ourselves, warming up our fingers and instruments. As I warmed up, I listened attentively to the others and most of their melodies were perfect. A horrible feeling appeared in my stomach because I felt that I was going to be embarrassed. Here we were, about to play a beautiful song in harmony, and I would mess it all up. As I attempted to play the song, I calmed down because the song wasn’t as hard as I expected. Though there were a lot of tricky notes, I could probably get the hang of it. My predictions were wrong. When all of us started practicing as a group, I kept missing my notes. To make matters worse, other friends from our middle school came to hear us practice. Everyone made fun of my mistakes; they were all laughing at the fact that I was even capable of playing at an actual function. I’ve never felt angrier. I’ve never felt so motivated. The Graduation was in June, giving us four months to practice, and I was intent on using every spare minute to make my part perfect.
I’ve never worked harder for anything in my life. Every waking minute, I was playing that song. The first few weeks, I loved playing it, hearing the soft melody through the house over and over again. As the weeks went on, I resented it. I was sick of playing this one song that having to playing it again was like a never-ending movie gone wrong. Despite my dad and sister’s anger for having to hear the song every moment of the day, my mom seemed quite happy. She never complained, she never screamed, she always said, “ Practice however, whenever; I don’t care, practice as much as you think you need.” I felt happy because she was proud of me.
June approached faster than expected and the day before the event, I was a wreck. I didn’t eat the whole day and my stomach had butterflies. Memories flashed back towards what happened the last time I performed, making me more anxious. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep and the next day, headed off to the venue as soon as possible. It was packed with graduating students and crewmembers, everybody rushing around the hallways. There was so much screaming and shouting that I couldn’t get my thoughts together. I finally found a private room and had a five-minute conversation with myself. I told myself that no matter what happens out there, it’s good enough that I’m even out there performing. I reminded myself of all the blood and tears put into this one song, and wished myself good luck.
Walking up the stage, there was a huge spotlight on me as I walked to the piano. Before we were about to begin, I took a long deep breath and started playing. My only thought was “Don’t mess up, just keep playing.” Sooner than later, it was already over and I started to calm down. As I stood up to take a bow, there was a huge commotion of cheers and shouts in front of me. Everyone was coming up to me and shaking my hand, telling me it was a great performance, I felt accomplished in that moment. Looking around at all the smiling faces, especially my mom’s, I felt grateful for this opportunity. I’ve worked so many hours for this one small moment in my life, and I conquered it. Stage fright shouldn’t stop me from anything, especially from an experience like this. I might’ve been afraid initially, but the joy in the end was an inexpressible feeling. Then, I noticed someone. Sitting in the front row was Diane Von Furstenberg, a New York City fashion designer. Walking out in amazement as everyone congratulated me, the only thing on my mind was seeing her. A while later, she came out of the auditorium and I approached her, hoping to say, “Hi.”
“Good job, that was a pleasant song you guys played out there.”
“Thank you. Thank you. Can I take a picture with you?”
She obliged and my life was complete. The courage to perform in front of an audience was a life-changing experience, and though stage fright may be inevitable, it’s how you overcome those fear that matters. A small obstacle should never get in the way of any aspirations. My mom came up with video camera in hand and hugged me, telling me how proud she was. The first thing I said was, “ You can check off playing for a celebrity now.” She chuckled and walked away.