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

Posts tagged ‘Piano’

Thanksgiving, Day 2

1. My “good” students. They fill my life with love and laughter and remind me that I count for something.

2. My “bad” students. I try to fill their lives with love and laughter and remind them that they count for something. I am driven to become a more loving person for them and because of them. Can’t be mad at that, though I can be annoyed in the moment…

3. Facebook. It’s great to be able to stay in touch with the amazing people in my life with such ease. Also, it’s a fantastic outlet for my wit.

4. My blog! Recording my thoughts in this manner has helped me to see just how cyclical my life and moods really are. I find myself whining about whatever is happening and then can say, “Hey! I remember getting through that! I wrote it down.” Pretty nifty!

5. The piano. Aside from my parents, this is the longest relationship I’ve had. Only God knew at the time how important learning this instrument would be; from helping to fund my higher education to being able to play for family functions, the piano is kind of a big deal.

6. A healthy body. “Oh no, I have plantar fasciitis!” Shut up, self. I’m richly blessed.

7. An amazing family. Everyone who knows us marvels at how tightly-knit we are. I have a crazy amount of love in my life.

8. My cousin Megan! She’s like a big sister that I don’t have to share a Mom with. It’s awesome to have a best friend to whom you are related.

9. Dancing. One of my favorite ways to express joy.

10. Being alive. There was a time in my life that was very dark and I questioned if life was even worth living. I can’t imagine having missed all these blessings! I thank God for each new day.

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Trust me; I’m a Pianist – The Final Countdown

In two days, I’ll be packing up the car with my gear, Red Rocket, and the first and greatest cheer crew I’ve ever had – my parents – to go to Augusta for my first half-iron distance triathlon. For those of you sane enough not to know what that entails, I get to swim 1.2 miles in a river, ride 56 miles on a bike, then run 13.1 miles. This is going to take me all. day.

It’s taken countless hours and a disturbing percentage of my salary to get to this point. And I’m pretty stoked about it. Which is weird.

“But Lady J,” you start. “Why would it be weird for you to look forward to something you chose to do?”

Excellent question.

This is triathlon number five. I was BEYOND terrified for triathlons 1-3. #4 was a bit better and I distinctly remember feeling odd that I didn’t feel terrified. Probably because I wrote it down. Number 5? I’m not saying I think it’s going to go perfectly, but I think I’m gonna have a damn good time. From the get go, baby.

I’ve maintained that piano performance and triathlon are totes the same. The preparation. The nerves. The ridiculousness of the task at hand. Imma be real with y’all – while I might not literally fear for my life when I’m on stage as I may have in the water or on the bike course, swimming, biking, and running seem like much more reasonable requests to make of someone than asking her to memorize thousands of notes in a specific order to be played at a specific time in a specific way. That being said, as I’ve prepared for both types of events, the problems I’ve encountered don’t lie in my body. My arms, legs, feet – fingers – work just fine, praise God. It’s about putting the hours in to allay the fears that I am not good enough or that I don’t deserve a place on the stage or on the course.

Less than 100 hours remain between Augusta and me. Coachie and pretty much everyone else on earth are saying that this is the time that jacks with people the most. Questioning if you’ve sufficiently trained. Intimidated by people you’ve never met with more experience, strength, speed, or all three. I think I’m calmer now than I’ve ever been in my whole life. What’s gonna happen is gonna happen, man. Don’t get it twisted – I’m not saying that I won’t be nervous on Sunday. I just know that it’s my time. My time to show myself what I’m made of. My time to put myself to the test. My time to celebrate the physical health with which I’ve been blessed. However it ends, it will be my time to decide how to move forward to continue growth.

I’ve been getting ready for this all my life.

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Bada$$es need love, too

As the peak of triathlon season approaches, I am feeling many things. With less than two weeks remaining until my “A” race, what I am feeling most is doubt. Doubting that I will finish within the time goal. Doubting that I will finish at all. Incredulous that I belong among this group of people who do things like swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles. In a row. This is my first race of this distance – it’s normal to feel some anxiety, right?

Evidently, I am not the only person who will show up at his or her race with these type of feelings. I have found myself sympathetic with other beginning triathletes who question themselves similarly. However, I have caught myself being judgmental with anyone who has more than like, 5 minutes racing experience than I do.

I’ve been there.

I know what you’re going through.

and the worst –

I. Am. Right. There. With. You.

The f*** you are.

You have been doing this a long time OR completed this same distance or even same course before. You’re so much faster and stronger than I am. Why are you even talking to me? You make me sick.

And then – I am reminded of my relationship with music and my music babies. One of my favorite exercises is to have them raise their hands if they suffer from stage fright. I always raise my hand with them because indeed, I still get very anxious before I perform. Invariably, at least one student responds, “No. Way.” I tell them we are all growing musicians, but I’ve just been growing a little longer than they have. And they actually buy it.

I applaud my babies when they are brave enough to play 3 note songs for each other. As I age, I think I am even more proud of the risk I take as I share music with others. In some ways, greater experience brings greater risk. You’ve delivered results in the past and success becomes more normal than not. As you expect more of yourself, others start to believe in you as well. “Man. People think this is going to go well. What if it doesn’t?”
Dammit, if anyone DARED to question why I was nervous as my recital last month was approaching, I looked at him or her as though s(he) had two heads. “Why wouldn’t I be nervous? Dumbass.”

Oh. Heh.

I suppose that if I am allowed to be nervous on stage, despite having performed since I was 4, people who already call themselves Ironman can be nervous too. While I haven’t read the USAT guidebook lately, I think it’s a safe bet to say that only humans are allowed to compete in races. To be human is to be fragile. Having the will to test your limits, regardless of your experience level, is to always be admired – never judged.

So uh – for all the thoughts that have ever run through my head about you – my bad. 🙂 I am praying for your progress, just as I pray for my own.

13 days.

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Sooooo…why did YOUUUUU clap? Recital Report, Part III

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Among the many things for which I am thankful is a well-functioning frontal lobe. It keeps me from asking stupid ass questions such as the one posed in the title. However, as I was giving (getting?) hugs after my performance, people seemed to be answering this question though I did not ask it.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I bloody hate logistics. I CAN be an organized person, but because of my tendency toward perfectionism I usually shut down and wait until the absolute last minute to execute plans. One of the things I put off was deciding whom to invite. Of course, there were the people whom I knew love Lady J; por ejemplo, Mom and Dad had invested, say, $6920572047204 into my piano lessons. They’ll probably come check it out. Then there are the friends who are there to listen to me meltdown about the latest problems with my dead guy friends. Those were easy.

I’d like to say if I were performing popular music, inviting people would have been more of a no-brainer. Alas, I am an overthinker anyhow and likely would have operated with similar hesitancy. My program went a lil sumthin like dis:

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People like what they know. Perhaps most could pick Beethoven (his likeness, not his music) out of a lineup, but the others? I didn’t want people to be bored. I settled on inviting people whom I figured would be amused to see me doing something that they don’t normally see. How often do non-musicians attend piano recitals of people to whom they did not give birth? People do things for the sake of novelty, right?

I reach the end of the recital. I get the claps. I wouldn’t expect anything less because applause is just good manners. People hand out standing ovations like I hand out candy to bribe my students to behave. Whatever keeps society running more smoothly, right? Most of the feedback fell into one of two categories:

1. You played some of my favorite pieces.

Of course. Moonlight Sonata and Clair de Lune. I picked my program with no regard to the wishes of my audience, so I suppose I was fortunate. “While I wasn’t surprised that this was said, I was surprised to learn that people were thankful that I played something familiar. I totally hadn’t thought how that would affect how my recital was received. I, too, am ‘guilty’ of preferring what I know. “It was really
cool to hear Clair de Lune performed live!” That made me smile. I got to bring people closer to something they already knew.

2. Cool. Weird, but cool.

“Man. You were really saying something up there. I don’t know what it was! But you sure said it.”

I’m pretty sure that’s the best review I’ve ever gotten. Thanks, Uncle. It spoke to the fact that many people don’t choose to listen to Classical instrumental music. Words give us cues. I REALLY take for granted that sometimes it’s easy to feel lost without that guide. If your ear isn’t ready, Mozart can sound like Schoenberg. And that’s a DAMN shame. I was pleased that people were able to enjoy the program without having a map, so to speak.

I’ve written previously about why I think people really clap for a performance. Lady J’s got some ovaries on her. I am the most at peace I’ve ever been about a performance. I am excited to prepare another recital. While I am a competent pianist, I don’t think that’s my greatest strength. I think it’s – well, this. I’m VERY mortal and I put it out there. Usually unapologetically. Truth? I can’t stand my people. Classical musicians, I mean. We make triathletes seem gentle and humble, and that is no small feat. I had to think twice about blogging about my recital because throughout school it felt like showing weakness was not allowed. Ever. Dammit, I’ve got feelings. I believe I reach people by sharing them. We play the greatest music in the world. Let’s not make it less accessible by being jerks because we put the time in.

In Him, I am strong. Rar. 😎

Of course it was a PR. Piano. Recital. Recital Report, Part II

If you could be inside my head while I play, I’m pretty sure you’d think I could add comedienne to my resume. Take a peek.

The Chopin

I can't help thinking about how frightened I was before the swim at St. Anthony’s. This Ballade was the swim. If I survived it, I win everything. Hell, I could go home. I get through the opening 4 bars. Yay. This sounds nice. Onto page 2 – the first page where fun things like to happen. Oh! That didn’t suck! Yay. Soon after, I missed my first note. My next thought surprised me. “Thank God that’s out of the way!” I didn’t have perfection hanging over my head anymore. I actually felt more relaxed. I think seeing myself keep going without missing a beat helped my confidence. Pages 5-8 were THE pages where I’d had my traditional freak outs. Then I just had this moment:

You know what? This m***** f***** Chopin is lucky someone is around to play his s*** damn near 200 years later.

Turning point. I started to smile – dance, even. While those pages weren’t flawless, I believe they were effective. I didn’t allow anything to keep me from moving forward musically or emotionally. Aaaaaaand I did a good job on my favorite part – the stretto at the end! Holy crap, it’s over already. A Flat chord! Hoo-ah!

Out. Water. New mood.

The Beethoven

I. Child. This was a good time. I closed my eyes and just followed the melody. Lol, I was one note away from perfect. “Dammit!” Here was where I really started to take notice of what was going on. “OMG, I’m, like totally making music right now. It’s filling the room. And people are listening. This is awesome!” I reached the end of the first movement and prayed no one would clap before I started

II. the second movement. No. One. Did. Hahahaha my heads up about not clapping when in doubt WORKED! I’m a champ. Okay, I’m a focused champ. I’m a champ in a different mood. We were somber, now we’re dancing. Move that body guuuuuuurl! Hey, it’s working! This sounds good. Oh, helloooooo mistake I haven’t made in months! Good to see you too; let’s play something Beethovenish until I make it to the next part. Made it. Don’t stop dancing! Just like that, it was time for

III. the last movement. *gulp* My presto has had a tendency to be TOO agitato, know what I’m sayin’? I’ve had to make real effort to not start too fast. If I think it’s just right, it’s definitely too fast. I had had a plan in place to check the secondhand on my watch in order to help with a starting tempo. I checked it. Then I remembered my secondhand broke A LONG TIME AGO. My left hand looked great though! Sigh.

Lord, have mercy.

I started. Okay, this is manageable. Left hand – Do. Not. Rush. Keep holding it back! Okay, this isn’t perfect but it’s – going. And not sucking. I’ll take it. Let’s make some music. I think I had some good moments in here but this piece was the least fun for me. Totally my b. I shouldn’t have allowed the blips to get in the way. But baby wants that coda. The coda is my jam, y’all. Aaaaaaand – I’ll take it, lol. Done!

Out. Water. New mood.

The Debussy

THIS. I reminded myself to breathe. I just – I opened up, man. I laid it on ’em. If I could find the place where I could learn to be that open with all my pieces – sigh. Perhaps in the next 25 years. Real talk? It’s a good thing I didn’t play it any better. I would have gotten draws thrown at me. There were children in the audience.

Out. Water. New mood. OMG this is almost done. Go make it happen.

The Brahms

Brahms and I have a special relationship. That’s not a euphemism. This girl loves her some Brahms. Plus, we share a birthday! I chose to end with this piece for a reason – it’s one of my favorite Favorite FAVORITE! I began to play. WOMP. CRASH. I didn’t even make it through the first two measures, LOL! Whatever my fingers did, my brain could not process and autocorrect. I stopped and smiled.

“JK,” I said aloud. The audience laughed.

I shook my head and started again. I am SO FREAKING PROUD OF MYSELF that I did not let that stop me from playing the hell out of that piece. I put it behind me and focused on one thing at a time. I got to the best parts and made them sing. I had a few more blips, but nothing to agonize or JK about.

Boom. The moment for which I’ve been waiting months. I’d fantasized about what it would feel like to get to the last page and freaking nail it. After all of the work and the drama of the piece. The program. The preparation.
I lingered on the final octave as long as I could before it was obscene.

It felt awesome. God is awesome.

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Answer: Everything that kills me makes me feel alive. Recital Report, Part I

Question: Why the hell am I here again?

I asked myself this as I pulled up to my performance venue after a hectic morning. I had anticipated feeling panicked, but at about two hours before show time I just wanted a nap. Music is cool, but naps are better, right? Alas, I would feel guilty drinking later if I didn’t play first. Onward!

I met with the owner and worked out some final details. A local university student was there with her professor, checking out pianos. “Fantastic,” I thought. “People who know what they are doing. I bet that feels good.” I tried to shut everything out and settle myself.

Dress? Check. Playing shoes? Check. Diva shoes for the after party? Check. Confidence? Uh. This face stared back at me in the mirror:

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Oh, dear. Maybe we can get some confidence from upgrading that face. My makeup application took me 5 whole minutes. That’s 10x longer than normal. You know this must be a BFD. Next came the dress, pearls, and shoes. I giggled. “I’m cute. Still tired, but cute.” I checked my watch. 45 minutes to go. By now, the others had cleared out of the hall and I could warm up.

I adjusted the bench how I like it and started playing through my favorite (read: most terrifying) sections of each piece slowly. Heh. “This Steinway D shole is purty!” Soon after I had begun, one of my cousins popped her head in. Polite pianistzilla that I am, I gave her a hug and asked if she would wait outside for me until 1:45. She was cool. “Hey, could you keep others out for me too?” “Sure!” she says.

I start playing again. I hear another person. “Gah!” Oh yay, it’s 3M! Happy to see her, I ask her to go away, too. 🙂 My mom and aunt then came in (cousin you are REALLY sucking at this) and my mother tried to attack me. “Ermahgerd lemme see how beautiful you are!” Thankfully, my aunt shuffled her away. I got about 2 more minutes in before I went to go hide and check myself out one last time.

I had wanted to minimize my contact with people before I went on the stage. However, as there was only one bathroom, it became a bit of a reunion area. “I’m so excited!” “Are you ready?” “Good luck!” Everyone please SHUT. UP. I smiled and hugged, of course, and in retrospect, that is probably what I needed. I managed to hide, eat a Bonk Breaker (hey, endurance is endurance) and await 2 PM. I checked my watch. 1:53. As I sat in a room by myself, I repeated the command from Philippians 4:6 to be anxious for nothing. I thanked God for my family and for music and the opportunity to bring them together today. “Uh. What are you gonna do if when you make a mistake?” I asked myself. “Keep going. No big deal,” I replied. Keep breathing. Have fun. Think happy thoughts. Did Jesus really die on a cross for me to whine about Chopin? No, probs. Chill out.

I came out at 2 and told owner dude I was ready. I turned my head and saw my Dad TOTALLY not in the performance hall. “Waaaaaaaaiiiiit!” I asked him to wait 5 more minutes. I wrangled my father, who was giving directions to a turned around family member. Real talk? When my huge family of Caribbean descent is involved, starting an event 5 minutes late is like starting an hour early. I couldn’t be mad.

No, seriously. I couldn’t be mad. I had a job to do. They are clapping for me!

Separation Anxiety: On Winding Down

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about something low-stress, like dropping your kid off at day care for the first time or saying farewell to your military spouse before s(he) deploys. This is SERIOUS. As my recital approaches, I am finding that I have had to spend more time away from the piano than I would like. I had planned for this, as this is not my first rodeo, but it is unsettling nonetheless.

Incidentally, today was also my rest day for my triathlon training. No playing. No biking. No swimming. No running. Um. What else is there? Aside from descend into self-sabotaging, paralyzing thoughts of what could go wrong. Hah! I didn’t do that either, actually. I suppose I must be maturing because I feel very matter-of-fact about my performance. I know I cannot cram any more details into my head. It is what it is.

So why is this pulling away so uncomfortable?

I think it is the waiting. I wish I could fast forward to 4 PM on Saturday when I should be having my first glass of champagne. Before that, I have to welcome family into town, ensure that I sleep and eat well, finish printing programs, get dat recital day pedi, and wait backstage without losing my mind and keeping my heart rate down for about 30 minutes until show time.

Moreover, the approach of any event is the time in which friends and family are in my face like so:

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I know they mean well, and because people aren’t usually comfortable with anything less than a sunny disposition, I try to reply as such:

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I don’t feel like I will know I’m ready until I sit at the piano on recital day and play E flat with my RH 2. Or maybe I’ll know when I play the final B octave with lefty.

What I do know is that this – the discomfort, the waiting – this is how real women are made.

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