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

Posts tagged ‘Piano’

Well Done, Miss

January 31. Just like that. Here are some key stats:

  • Weight lost: 0 pounds
  • Miles run: 54.2
  • Races run: 1
  • Days practiced: I don’t know, but I played well in a recital, so enough for now

This begs the question – how well am I resisting?

I. The temptation to overeat

I am breaking even. I will confess that I regret weighing myself a few days ago and seeing that, in that I was a bit less motivated to run. Naturally, everything is fitting the same way, but you know, sometimes you just hope to step on the scale and see a miracle. 🙂

II. Nonlinear progress

Although the scale is not budging, I can’t be mad because I’ve been eating whatever and it has been delicious. That being said, I am seeing my resting heart rate come down and I am getting better sleep, so the running is not a waste. I’ve got do to better in February, though, because I’ve got a 10 miler with The Mentor coming up and I already have no hope of keeping up so I’d rather not have negative hope and extra weight.

III. Comparing Myself to Others

I’m especially impressed with myself because I went to a recital and heard some really talented teachers, but I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. Playing the piano can be fun and I think I have a specific calling, so for today, I’m secure. I know someone else could be doing it, but I don’t see anyone else around doing it for right now, and here I am, living life, so I may as well make the best of it.

IV. Allowing the evil one to steal my joy

This past week, I have been looking for any reason to laugh. At myself, with my colleagues and friends, at anything. I’m just ready for a good time even though nothing is really different. When I am happy, the key is to allow it even though I suspect in a week or two I will feel as though the world is ending.

V. Minimizing my accomplishments

I guess 1 through 4 aren’t too bad.

VI. Not prioritizing my time. 

I’m so thankful for the opportunity I had to play this past month and that I am on track to complete my 1019 km in 2019! It has been tricky but I’ve been making it work. However, I know that I have to be feeling positive to feel like it is worth it. I was extremely tempted to skip my running for the week because my weight hadn’t moved, but I reminded myself to not minimize my accomplishments, which helps me to prioritize my time.

Onto February:

  1. Weight loss: 5-7 pounds
  2. Miles run: at least 54
  3. Races run: 2
  4. Days practiced: whatever I need to be able to play through the first movement of Florence Price’s Piano Sonata.

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‘Επαιξα και εχω νίκησα. Recital Report, Part II

I played and I have won. Heh.

I was expecting to go first because I am – let’s just say, new, but I was wrong. I was second, hah! There was a quartet who played twice in the program so I was the first soloist. I still think I was practically right 😉

I walked onto the stage and adjusted the bench. I thought about putting down the music stand but I didn’t feel like messing with it, so I left it up though I played from memory. I started with my first chord and felt relieved that the piano felt decent. No other instrumentalist has to gamble the way we do! I felt my feet shaking as I was pedaling, but I just took deep breaths and did my best to tell the story. I moved my body to the music I was making and it felt very natural.

On Bended Knees is a slower piece, and I have found over the years that those types of slower tempo pieces are my favorite to play. I felt the same way when I performed in 2014 and I can report confidently that there is no change! While I may not have to worry about my fingers running away or getting tripped up, I do I have to work to stay in the moment mentally – not letting myself think too far ahead. Enjoying every melodic and harmonic moment was key. Key. Heh!

There had been a part as the middle of the piece comes to an end where I had been having some memory trouble, and it happens to be one of my favorite moments of the piece. I had thinking that I wanted this moment to be absolutely perfect as I played, and guess what. It was! I smiled as I relished the chord before continuing. I wanted Burleigh’s lush harmonies to fill the room and I couldn’t have done better. The piece was coming to a climax when I heard a child cry out. “Shut that kid up!” I thought to myself. “This is my time!” The kid was shut up, and I was able to reach the pianissimo ending without interruption 🙂

I got up and was met with a thankful audience. I bowed and returned my seat, where I was able to enjoy the rest of the concert and relax. I am in a group of some talented teachers! It was nice to meet musicians and exchange compliments and respect. It makes me want to play more and more! I hope I make it happen!

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Concert Black: Recital Report, Part I

I am playing in a recital today!

It is the first time I have played publicly since my recital four and a half years ago.  The local association of piano teachers of which I am a part organizes a recital for teachers each year and a few months ago I was feeling brave and so I did a dumb thing – I registered 🙂 On an emotional scale where 10 is “Whee, I can’t wait to play for everyone!” and 1 is “I want to hide under the covers with Bear,” I am registering at a respectable 6. I am currently under the dryer at my hairstylist and after I get my nails and waxing done, perhaps I could peak at an 8.

This recital has special meaning for me because it is the first time I will be performing a piano piece by an African-American composer, which sounds insane coming from a grown ass African-American pianist, but here we are. And thank God for that. I am playing On Bended Knees, the 5th piece of 6 from a set called From the Southland by H.T. Burleigh (1866-1949). I was supposed to play 2 of the 6 but – life. I didn’t practice enough to feel sufficiently confident playing it. I am looking forward to practicing more to put the whole set together with other amazing works by these often overlooked composers.

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I must confess – I was bitter when I got the reminder email from the concert organizers.

Attire: Concert Black.

Like I said, I’m grown! How are you going to tell me what to wear? We are all piano teachers who regularly enter their students in recitals and who likely have grown up doing this very thing themselves. I can only surmise that they didn’t want the new one *me* looking flashy as hell. Maybe they know me without knowing me, because I would have found something really bright to wear. I’m feeling bold and proud and I love when my outfits match. But let’s be real – what’s bolder and prouder than a black pianist playing black music in a room whose ethnic composition is likely to mirror the Republican National Convention?

I am not sure if many in the room will recognize the Negro Spiritual upon which On Bended Knees is based, but I believe it is a melody that evocative of all of the pain of my people as well as the hope that has been carried and passed on. Everyone has experienced pain and hope, and it is my hope that I will be able to express these feelings successfully today. When I think about how the closest I will be to slavery is my student loan debt, and of the privilege I have to share black history on stage today, I feel incredibly thankful. It won’t be perfect, especially since note perfect is not how I roll, but I am in the perfect position to imperfectly tell our story.

Concert Black. All day, every day.

 

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. 😎

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