I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

Posts tagged ‘Performance’

Get Me To The Greek! Pre-Nuptial Report, Part II

Hey. Don’t say too much. You write well. I don’t want you to make me look bad.” 

-Adonis 

My college roommate and long time friend recently had her wedding and sang at her reception. Her voice is to be envied, for sure. I wasn’t thinking of her voice, though – my mind was on her ovaries. The chutzpah she had to share her feelings in song was what I was really envying. Could I do that? 

Then I remembered. 

I’m getting married. My ovaries are crazy huge. 

Why else would I sign up for a race where the only God-ordained finish is someone’s death? I don’t get to write a post-nuptial report unless I am mourning the loss of my best friend! Pretty sure WordPress doesn’t work from heaven if I go first. I shall do updates from the course, of course, of this ultra in which speed is not of the essence. 

This is one of those things that I have to do because I only have one chance to do it and I do not want regret being a punk. My singing is my preface to the words I will say to Adonis tomorrow. 

I knew I had to sing to you today. I knew I had to do it because of the promises I am making to you. I am promising to take risks with you and for you. I am promising to give you my absolute best, however imperfect. I am promising to find and focus on the beauty in our now collaborative effort. 

How remarkable is it that I am standing before you, the one whom my soul loves. I am so thankful that God has brought you to me. You help me to be strong and courageous. I know you are the one for me because I understand how God loves me better than I did before. You reflect His love and my life is now warmer than I ever could have imagined. 

I sang that I was lost, now I’m free. Because of you, I feel free to trust in God more than I have. I am free to love in ways I did not know I could. I am free to share myself and become one with you. Thank you for pointing me to the true source of that freedom. May I love, honor and cherish you for all my life. 

  
Here we go! 

   
 

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Sweet Relief

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If I met a man who could do to me what Andre Watts’ playing does for me, I wouldn’t be single. TRUTH. I’ve had the opportunity to hear him play more than once and every time it was nothing less than spectacular. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. I even got to meet him once while in college and OMG HE TOUCHED MY LEFT SHOULDER. If it weren’t for triathlon, I would never have washed it. Mr. Watts, God forbid anything ever happen to your lovely wife (Joan) but never fear, you’ve got another (Joan) ready to step in.

I have a VHS copy of his performance at Lincoln Center from 1985 that I watch whenever I am in need of musical inspiration. He never fails me. I watched it again fairly recently, and for the first time I made a note. A note of his missed notes. OMG he missed notes! But you know what? It did not matter. At. All. It did not take away from the music one bit. He was freely playing and expressing and sharing and WORKING. My God, he can work that instrument. Ooooooh, that lucky Joan!

Focus, Joan.

What a relief it is to know that I can be imperfect and yet still effective. I can miss notes and still make music. I can be slow as molasses and still cross finish lines. I can confuse kids’ names and not catch all the billion sunshine state standards and still be an effective teacher. I practice, train, and study no longer to be perfect, but to maximize my effectiveness. I recognize that I’ve been blessed with the gift of good health and must work to share what it is that I have to give in order to honor God.

How sweet.

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Too Young For This Kind of Memory Loss: On Performance

I’d like to start this post by saying that I have a long history of kicking ass and taking names. I’ve been an overachiever for quite some time. Academically, musically, and hey, just look at me.

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So why is that I am so afraid of failure when I all I do is win.

This is no little thing, y’all. Every time I have a race. Every time I speak in front of adults. Every time I have a performance of my own. Multiply that exponentially when my babies have a performance. I flip the hell out like the sky is going to bloody fall if anything goes wrong. It doesn’t even have to be in the context of a performance – for instance, let’s say I am in the middle of teaching a lesson and I am demonstrating a piece for a student and I make a mistake. You know what my first thought is? “Omg the parent is going to think I am a horrible teacher because I Missed. A. Note.”

Crazy Lady J. You’re forgetting who is in charge. And it ain’t you.

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalms 46:1-11 NASB)

This God you serve, Joan. He does Big Things. You’re worried about notes, a fall, a misspoken word. None of this is even trouble as David describes. But He still cares. Why else would my life be so blessed?

I hope and pray that as I grow, I will learn to stop striving and finally KNOW that God is God. I am a champ only in Him.

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No, wait, it is all about me.

So, all my talk about thinking about others was crap. My bad.

I have a piano student (I’ll call her Faith) that I’ve been concerned about for a while now. She and her best friend were born 2 days apart and have known each other their whole lives. I’ve been privileged to teach them both but saw quickly that the besty was – and still is – progressing much faster. I’ve worried that Faith would see and hear how much more advanced the besty is and become discouraged or jealous. Moreover, parents love to compare notes (see what I just did there?) and all I want is for everyone to live and grow harmoniously (I just did it again!).

I make a concerted (okay, I’ll stop – probably) effort to not make mention of any other student during my private lessons for this reason. Everyone is on his or her own path, and I want to ensure that my babies are focused on their own growth and no one else’s. I want them to hear each other play so they hone keen listening skills and can appreciate and uplift each other, but I’ve had a teacher or two directly compare me to another student and I found it devastating. If I’m doing my best – what else can I do?

There are many virtues I’ve taken from music and applied to endurance sports. Persistence. Courage. Humility. However, a stark difference occurred to me as I was in the middle of the race, talking to myself as I normally do. I started to say something to myself that I often say to myself as I am practicing the piano.

“Joan. You don’t have to go so fast. It’s not like this is a…shit.”

There actually is a first place. Aaaaaaand you get it by being the fastest. How – different.

I wish I could say that it didn’t bother me that I am the slowest person in either of my peer groups. No matter that I’ve been racing for about 5 minutes. It still sucks to feel like the loser. It frightens me to think that one day this won’t be the case and I could be one of those people who thinks, “Thank God I’m not the slow one anymore!” Gross. I would rather come in last forever than relish in the fact that I am not the slowest. Aim higher, people.

How does one deal with this? Recognizing and appreciating that there are people who are better while simultaneously recognizing and appreciating your own strength?

I’ve got to shut them out.

Not completely, of course. I still want to cheer them on and celebrate their victories. But I am on my ass about this all the time. “Self, did you do your best?” “Yes.” “Then STFU and celebrate victory.” See, I didn’t even say YOUR victory. Victory. Full stop.

It is important to me that I progress. What a relief for an overachiever like me that I have NO FREAKING CLUE at what rate I am “supposed” to progress. Thank God I’ve got a wise triathlon coach who doesn’t compare me to her other clients and allows me to grow at my own pace. All I can see is the next stroke/revolution/step in front of me. And I make it and take it. Like a freaking champ.

My baby Faith is also a freaking champ. I’ve had to help her through a couple of moments where she wasn’t doing her best because she wasn’t sure it was good enough. I know she hears the besty and part of her wonders why she is not where she is even though they started at the same time. No matter. She’ll never be as good as she can be if she’s not putting in the time. Now, Faith is progressing more quickly – not because of being motivated by the besty, but because she sees how well she can do when she applies herself fully.

Me too, Faith. Me too.

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Finding Freedom in Fabulousness: My Original Endurance Sport

Music and Me: A Story of Love, Hate, and Redemption
By Lady J

My Ones
The story my parents tell me is that as my mother was in graduate school, one of her professors saw my two year old fingers and said I have piano hands. They wanted me to have a skill to hone anyhow, so why not piano? Fast forward to age 4 and Girl J is seated at a piano for her first lesson. I loved music AND receiving praise (still do!) so I practiced what I was told with little drama. My concert debut was that October and my Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star opened to rave reviews. I suppose that I was more motivated to practice by myself (INFJ hayyyyyy) and get the applause by myself, so my parents allowed me to quit my dance lessons soon after. I am told that when I was 7, I told them that I didn’t remember asking for lessons. I can only assume that this was around the time when I began learning scales. 🙂

Other than having to practice technique, life as a beginning pianist was good. Practice. Go to lessons. Go to the mall afterward. Perform. Get the claps. Lather, rinse, repeat.

My Teens

By now, I was starting to delve into more advanced piano literature – you know, stuff by the guys civilians have heard of – Beethoven, Bach, et al. I struggled but I loved the payoff. So much so that I told my piano teacher at the time that I thought I wanted to study music in college.

#shitjustgotreal

I started entering competitions, which I LOATHED. Sometimes I would win, sometimes I would lose, but the glory of winning did not compare to the shame of losing. Normal teenage foolish thought. As much as competing sucked, the music was boss. I spent two high school summers at piano camp and was inspired to practice 4-6 hours daily. Long before I ever experienced runner’s high, I was having musicgasms (Chopin was my first, thanks boo) and wanted to learn more and more. Though performing made me nervous, I knew I had a stage presence worth watching and talent worth hearing and the payoff was worth it. More notes brought more claps. Bring it. High school graduation brought on my piano performance majorness.

#shitgotevenrealer

Practicing 4 hours a day for funsies in the summer as opposed to practicing 4 hours a day all the time to avoid getting your ass kicked by your professor. Entirely different game. I remember frequent conversations with my high school teacher telling her how burnt out I felt, wondering if I belonged there. I knew I loved playing, but I didn’t quite feel like I fit in with the other performance majors. My professor saw it too and encouraged me to switch majors – incidentally, to music education, but we’ll get to my twenties later. 😉 I had caused a car accident my sophomore year which prevented me from practicing as much and had to delay my sophomore jury by a semester. I felt like I was making it by the skin of my teeth. Not so comfortable for the overachiever that I had always been.

About that tendency to overachieve – junior year comes along, which meant it was time to start thinking about graduate school. I took piano pedagogy classes for the first time and was really enjoying them. I also learned that that path would allow me to both study teaching and performance, which appealed to me. The music ed people seemed like they were not into performing. The performance people seemed out of touch with reality. A middle way! I made it out of college with my performance degree and accepted into a pedagogy program. Off I go to learn more about how much I don’t know yet!

My Twenties

Sooooo I kinda had a meltdown in graduate school. Big. Time. Essentially because I thought I knew things then I realized I didn’t. And every time I turned around there was something else I didn’t know. Looking back, I know now that it was because I had laid my foundation on how good I was at stuff. Not too solid, especially at bloody 20. I needed that meltdown. I can’t say that I have ever been a cocky person, but my knowledge/playing ability definitely isn’t something I should be taking to the bank like I take God’s faithfulness. By His grace, in 2 years I had a master’s degree in pedagogy. Naturally, the glutton for punishment that I am, I went on for a doctorate.

Idiot.

When I started the Doctor of Musical Arts program, I had wanted another pedagogy degree, but the school decided to eliminate the program. I was given the choice to pursue performance or accompanying. Accompanying? Other people? Bump that! Why don’t I do performance? My original pursuit? I could handle it. Even though it made me MISERABLE in undergrad. Yeah, Joan, why don’t you do something you disliked at about 57204720274820 times the intensity? Makes perfect sense.

This did not go well.

I was VERY unhappy. A lot of people pissed me off. No worries, I pissed them off too. I made some poor decisions and found myself with a choice to leave school or get a second master’s degree – in music education. By this time, I had stopped swearing off classroom teaching and it seemed like an option I would enjoy. Coming out would mean alternative certification and feeling like a failure. Not. An. Option.

I switched degree programs. Was I happy? Nope. I didn’t trust many people, so I found myself very lonely. Go to class. Come home. Eat. Write. Intern. Blah. I enjoyed the coursework, but looking back now I wish I would have opened up more. I was around some really great people that I’m thankful I still get to be in touch with professionally. I made it, and off to the workforce I went. I got a job in elementary music, just as I had wanted, very close to where I grew up. Three degrees and nine years later, it was time for Homecoming. Perfect.

New job. You already know. Feelings of inadequacy All. Day. But you know what?

It wasn’t until I stopped seeing performance as my vocation that I embraced myself as a pianist.

Ass backwards, perhaps. I feel that teaching is my therapy, in many ways. I spend upward of 50 hours a week telling students the things that I am still working to internalize as a student of life. I see them play and grow and love what they are doing and it has helped me to appreciate what I love to do. I tell them to own the fact that they are musicians and dammit, I don’t want to be two-faced. If they should embrace their bad ass Minuet in F, I should embrace my Waldstein Sonata. Seeing them reminds me that it is okay to be a work in progress. I’m a – music sharer. I own that proudly.

Today, I showed a video of an excerpt Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 to my Kindergarteners. I asked them what they thought. A girl raised her hand and told me she was mad. “Why are you mad?” I asked. “I loved it. I’m mad that you turned it off.” I get paid to share joy with people. That’s blessed, y’all.

Our Silver Anniversary

When it comes to my passions, I’m a bit of a tramp. Some people are happy doing one sport. I like three. Some people are happy only teaching or performing. I need both. I’ve decided the best way I can honor my relationship with music is to give a recital. You’ll note that there is a date on my calendar that is not a race. I’m looking forward to a throwback summer of hours of practicing – now mixed in with hours of triathlon training. Not gonna lie, irrespective of how I sound, I’m going to look bloody fantastic.

My hope is that after 25 years, I will finally be able to share my love with the world without apology.

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The Liberty of Newness: My Second Endurance Sport

The fun I have had training and growing and surprising myself in the past year has not come without cost. I often feel guilty for not playing the piano more. Real talk – when I started teaching, I wasn’t practicing so much anyhow as I adjusted to having the FT, but it still bugs me. Yeah, I’m all up in the music on the daily, teaching the kiddos, enjoying what I’m doing, but I feel that I am learning things from endurance training that music has been trying to show me for…well, ever. Why am I willing and able to put so much time into something new when music has already done so much for me?

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Yup. You see, music and I have been together for damn near 25 years. We’ve had our ups and downs but I know we’ll always be together. But racing? Everything is new and fresh and I get surprised all the time! I am enjoying each new day, but with that comes the fear of my honeymoon ending.

What will that even look like?

I imagine that eventually I will hit a point where I am not progressing as quickly, if at all. Age will bring its challenges, as will injury and life interfering with training. How will I feel about racing then? Will I still love it even though I don’t feel it is being as good to me as it once was?

My mother recently commented that she has never seen me as happy as I am now that racing is in my life, but I know me. It is fulfilling a need to achieve. What happens when that need isn’t being met? Will I run off to the latest thing? Heh – run. Did I do that with music? I don’t think so, simply because I was too ignorant to realize all the ways music benefits me until, ironically, I began racing.

The fact that I am an advanced musician brings with it certain pressure that I am still working to relieve. While with racing, I push myself to achieve and grow, with music I push myself to not only achieve and grow but also be exceptional. Anything less than pristine performance is difficult for me to see as worth having. I know it is highly unlikely that I will attach my self-worth to being an athlete, but music has played such a huge part in my life that when I feel I’m not doing well as a musician, I’m not doing well period.

I guess what’s great about racing is that I allow myself to suck acknowledge my shortcomings without beating myself up because I know I am a beginner. A wise person would apply that lesson to other parts of her life – shouldn’t I acknowledge my shortcomings as a musician and just keep growing and enjoying? One can only hope, pray, and play.

Should I Be Here? The Starting Line

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Oh, Jessie Spano. At least you were excited about going on stage. Now that there’s only a week between me and my first Olympic distance triathlon, all I feel is this:

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That’s right. Ambivalence at best, sheer terror at worst. And no one seems to understand! People keep telling me that I should have no fear, or that I’m going to have fun, but I am so hesitant about it that I won’t even commit to making birthday plans because it feels presumptuous to assume that I will see it! News of a fellow triathlete’s death at a race yesterday simply serves to justify my fear. Seriously. What. Am. I. Doing.

But this feeling is not new for me. You see, I was a music major. A music performance major. Which, is like, exactly the same as being a triathlete. From the extreme talent of some to the extreme egos of others. Hours upon hours of training for one event for which you can never be totally sure you’ve sufficiently prepared yourself. Where people, either as a result of ignorance, insecurity, or sheer jealousy, say things as you’re preparing that make you wonder why you are bothering – if you’re not grounded properly, that is. Where people watch and comment upon your performance and give feedback, solicited or not. Conversely, there are those who say how awesome it is going to be whom I tend to simply look at as though they have two heads. Or one really ugly one. I’ll give triathlon this – I am significantly less nervous going on stage now because I can say with a fair amount of confidence that I’ll make it through the performance alive, even if it goes poorly. Can’t say that when I’m on the beach.

So, I’m thinking, okay, self. Why the hell ARE you doing this? It’s not like college or graduate school where your career is depending on it. I could quit and in the grand scheme of things it wouldn’t be life-changing.

Or would it?

I have a choice before me. At 8:13 AM next Sunday, I can be quivering on the beach or comfortable in my bed. I know how I’m going to feel on that coastline. It’s not going to be nice. But the bed would be worse. I would be wondering what it would be like fighting big ass waves. I would wonder what the shore looked like as I passed the final buoy. I would wonder how tired I would be after T2 after managing not to fall off of my bike. And I would definitely wonder how awesome it would feel to cross the finish line after my longest race to date. I can’t live with that wondering, man.

So yeah. I’m scared as hell! Brave enough to show up anyway! My taper (lowering my training levels) was started a bit early due to the lovely hugs and germs of my students, but hey, life happens. Just like those fabulous college days, I’m reflecting on the past few months of my life wondering if I could have done more. The answer is the same as it was then – of course! Here’s hoping that I am on the brave side of the line between courageous athlete/complete idiot.

Last thought – you know what mess people need to stop right now? Saying that something someone else finds awful wasn’t really that bad. I forbid it in my classroom (when that kid who isn’t usually that bright comments how easy something is when someone else is struggling) and I wish I had the power to do so in real life. It serves no other purpose than to inflate the ego of the person reacting. If you see someone struggling with something, how about helping him/her change their perspective OR sharing the knowledge that you have without your personal assessment of its difficulty level? Until this happens, fellow scaredy-cats – remember that the number one cause of jackass behavior is insecurity. Surround yourself with uplifting people who will remind you why you keep signing up for all this foolishness.

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