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Practice with Persistence This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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(Play it again.)

My worn and weathered phone, grooved from ­frequent encounters with ­cement, is poised on the rack. It's no Canon VIXIA, but for the task at hand, it'll do.

I unfurl ice-cold fingers and place them gently on the glossy white keys. A high-pitched beep tells me video mode is on.

Inhaling deeply, I construct a picture in my mind and strike the first chords.

(Rippling water … lilies adrift, a mirage of reflecting lights.)

The phrase builds to a peak and lessens, a receding wave of music. The theme repeats itself, a downward trickle of A flat, F, and E flat, and transitions into another section, light and whimsical, the cadenza.

(Poco a poco cresc. e stringendo, Start soft and deliberate, then pick up the pace.)

G flat down to C flat, to G flat again. I have spent hours on this right-hand run, finding the ideal weight of each finger to press each note. It should be effortless, like my hands are floating over the keys, slicing through the air. The images I want to convey cannot be bogged down by hesitation.

(A waterfall, a rushing brook, a dragonfly skimming a riverbank.)

My left hand enters the scene, measured and deep. My right ­continues to glide up and down the keyboard, sustaining the impression, until the pattern changes, and I stop. My hands reach for the phone and pause the recording. I have finished two pages, and it is time to evaluate.

Scrolling through my library of videos, I browse dozens of unflattering thumbnails of a girl in a baby-blue bathrobe at the keyboard, her hair ragged and unkempt. The timestamp on the most recent is 9:23 p.m., duration: 1 minute and 58 seconds. I select it and press play.

The beginning is slow and steady as it ebbs and flows, the cadenza is light and airy, and the right-hand runs are smooth. Technically, my “Reflets Dans L'eau” is fluid. But.

But there are no ripples, no lilies, no dragonflies. The beginning is too static and the runs feel flat. I run my fingers through my hair and sigh. I can't accept this, can't just let it be. I know what I have to do, and I return my phone to its temporary dock.

(Play it again.)

A flat, F, E flat, cadenza, poca a poco crescendo, waterfalls and dragonflies, steady the left hand.

Timestamp: 9:30, duration: 1 minute and 49 seconds.

(Again, Again, Again.)

And on and on, until it is midnight or later and my mother warns that the neighbors will soon call the police. I lower the lid and close my book. ­Tomorrow, I will listen to Michelangeli, and Rubinstein, and Youtube amateur pianists, and compare my interpretation with theirs. Tomorrow, I will do pages three and four, and then two more the day after.

And next week, when I go to my lesson, I will proudly perform the piece, and await criticism or praise. My teacher will look at me and say,

“It's getting there.

And I will do it all over again.

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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