Nerves of Steel?

Why did I say I’d do this?

The Steinway looms at the front of the room. I know it’s waiting to devour my fumbling fingers whole. Why did I think I needed performance experience?

“Thank you, Christopher, nicely done,” says Ann, the lovely teacher. “Joan, your turn.”

Ack! Why did I say I’d do this?

I clench my books in my hand. They’re really more of a security blanket. I know the pieces cold.

Don’t I? Ack!

Did I really honest-to-god say I’d do THREE pieces?

What HAD I thinking been with? Surely not my brain.

Okay, chill, babe. You can do this. You’ve practiced and practiced and practiced some more. You own those pieces. I set myself on the stool, put the music book on the rack and open it to the appropriate page. I address my completely sympathetic audience of seven other adult students and their guests.

“Tonight I’m going to play three pieces. The first is Bouree in A minor by Christoph Graupner.”

The first two bars (eight notes) go smoothly-ish. Oh no, that was supposed to be a B flat, not a B natural. Keep going. GACK!

I grin sheepishly at the audience. “Let’s pretend that never happened.” I get a good chuckle out of them and begin again. Oh, yes, this is SO amusing.

This time it’s worse, so much worse. My fingers are trembling so badly, they won’t do a thing I tell them. Their memory has vanished. A few bits come out the way they’re supposed to–just a few. It’s the longest minute-and-a-half of my entire life.

I want to flee the room in ignominy. But I have two more pieces to go.

“My second piece is Minuet in C major by Johann Wilhelm Hassler.” Try saying that with the correct German accent when you can barely speak.

Okay, babe, pull yourself together. Take a deep breath and release to a count of 5-4-3-2-1. Go.

Slow and steady to start. Hit the G. Yes, that’s good. Pick up speed. F sharp. Oh yeah, baby. Slow it down again. Now the fun bit. Watch those tricky chords. YES! PERFECT! I OWNED THAT! The fastest minute of my life.

One more piece to go.

“My last piece is Celebration by Anne Crosby. I’d like to dedicate this piece to our teacher Ann because she helps us all to celebrate the music within.”

Take a deep breath and release to a count of 5-4-3-2-1. Go.

Easy peasy beginning. Danger, danger, finger twisting section ahead. Ack! Repeat the easy bit.  Ack! More chords, hand-over-hand this time. Do the last two bits over again. Easy repeat. Final staccato chord. YES! OH YES!

I give the audience a big honking grin. They clap and grin back.

I came, I played, I conquered myself.

“Thank you, Joan. Nicely done recovery. And now we have…”

The next victim of the Steinway–er, performer–rises from her seat.

© Joan Leacott 2012

12 Comments on “Nerves of Steel?

  1. Yea, Joan! I remember piano recitals as a kid. Not sure I’d have the guts to try one as an adult. I’m a solid C piano player. On a good day 🙂


    • Does that mean you still play? Good for you if you are. I’ve just given the hero in my WIP a piano. He plays much better than I do. 😉


    • It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but with five kids in my family, my immigrant parents didn’t have enough money. Now that I’m in my second childhood (extra-early retirement thanks to redundancy) I’m doing things the way I wanted them the first time around. 😉 Thanks for dropping by, Mart.


  2. Conquering your performance means you carry that victory inside of you to your next challenge, whatever it may be, and you will deliver with confidence!



    • Victory in my pocket–love it! Can you here the Rocky music? Next challenge? Perform some more. Yes, really. Practice makes better (not perfect) and all that. Thanks for the cheers.


  3. You did it Joan! I’m so happy for you. I know how tough getting up in front of a crowd can be and actually playing the piano. Wow!! I’m so impressed. 🙂


    • I’ve done training sessions and taught fitness so being in front of crowd isn’t all that new to me. But, performing is a TOTALLY different thing. My teacher tells me adults have a much bigger problem with stage fright. Kids take it in their stride much more easily. Lucky little things.


  4. LOVE this, Joan. Whether it’s with a piano or some other “live” performance I related. Self-talk. ACK! More self-talk.

    I am in awe of your ability to play those pieces. How many people say “I wish I’d payed attention to piano lessons when I was young.” Tons. Count me among them.



    • I’ve only just started piano lessons. I took adult group lessons for a couple of years, then went private last September. The Grade One exam is on my to-do list for 2013. BTW, thanks for the tweet on MyWANA. I’ve been following Kristens’ blog for a while and I recently bought her books. It sounds like an awesome community.