Yesterday, I finally had my recital performance with the Adult Music Students' Forum. Some of you may recall that the Forum sponsors recitals for adult music students in the Washington, D.C. area. Adult Music Students\' Forum Web Site
I had become interested in performing with them to get some extra experience conquering my considerable performance anxiety.
The Forum sponsors recitals in members' homes at four skill levels: Prelude (beginners, no audience allowed), Intermezzo (intermediate, no audience, 5-minute limit), Cadenza (intermediate, audience, no time limit) and Encore (advanced, audience, program). I was planning to play Chopin's Polonaise in A flat major in the Intermezzo recital, which I *booted* at my piano teacher's recital in June.
I woke up early and decided to run through my piece a few times. I was alarmed to find that, for some reason, I couldn't play the darned thing! I was having memory problems and making all sorts of new mistakes. So I went back to basics, pulled out the music, practiced hands alone, played ridiculously slowly with metronome, started in different places, etc. to fix these problems. After about *two hours* of this, I had the piece back under control, I hoped.
I arrived a few minutes early at the recital to find a string quartet already tuning and warming up in the living room. It was interesting to listen to them, because they kept getting to a certain part of the music and falling apart, with the cello not coming in at the right time, which was messing everyone up.
I sat down on the couch to watch next to a woman named Susan, who was my age and in her fifth year of lessons. We got to talking, and she revealed that she has terrible performance anxiety also. This was her third recital with the Forum, although her previous outings were with the Prelude group.
They passed around a sign-up sheet, and you could pick your own slot. I wound up sixth out of 12. Susan got the second slot after the quartet; I guess she knew to keep an eye out for the sign-up sheet! She said she had to go near the front or she'd be a nervous wreck by the time her turn came around.
The leader of the quartet addressed the group and told us the name of the piece and composer. He then told an amusing little story about the piece, and the quartet then performed quite nicely, somehow erasing all of their previous problems.
Then Susan went, after telling us a bit about her pieces and why she selected them (a Shubert waltz and something else). She then began playing from memory. Unfortunately, her memory failed her after a few measures, so she had to go to her purse and retrieve her music and reading glasses. Still, she played quite nicely on the whole once she had the music, and she later said she was happy with it because she sometimes can't finish at all.
Then a man sang two songs (he had been taking voice lessons for two years and had played violin in the quartet), accompanied on piano by his voice teacher. Then the quartet violo player performed with her choir director accompanying her on piano.
Then it was my turn.
I hadn't expected to have to actually *say* something, so I didn't have much of an anecdote about my piece. But I had brought my music, so while others were playing, I had glanced at the music. I told the group the name of the piece and that Chopin had written it when he was only 11, which was a testament to his considerable genius, and that I would try to do it justice.
The piano was a satin pecan (I think) Weber grand with a nice action but a rather percussive sound. It was on hardwood floors, so the room was quite live. But hallalujah, the piano faced *away* from the audience! So I turned my back on all those pairs of eyes and started playing. I had intermittent episodes of nerves, but I felt OK. I'm not altogether sure how I sounded -- there was one truly awful pedal blur -- but I was quite happy with the piece. I didn't make any of the fumbles that had troubled me so in the morning or back in June.
And I experienced something I had *never* experienced before. As I took the repeat back to the main melody in preparation to end the piece, I remember thinking, "Hey, that went pretty well! Maybe I'll loosen up a bit and really nail the ending." So I actually tried to make it sound more musical rather than just playing it safe, and it did!
So. I got the monkey off my back, finally. I'm glad I persisted in confronting this little problem with performance anxiety. It does get better if you keep performing.
The next Intermezzo recital is in December. I'll be there!
Cindy -- whose teacher couldn't wait to hear how it went and made her promise to phone with a report, even though we have a lesson today anyway