Today I’m influenced by the rain. This type of weather has always had the power to subdue my mind, calm my heart, and relatively put me at ease. It could be the darkness in the sky, the repetitive patter of the rain, or a combination of both. Either way, rain has always been a meditative force in my life.
Rain was always a great time for me to practice the piano. On days when the sky was filled with moisture, and the clouds rolled heavy overhead, I would come home from school, plop my books down in my room, and venture out to the music room where I would sit for hours (back then, my back didn’t hurt as much!) and play through song after song, encouraged by the dark cover the clouds provided. Music has always calmed my heart. I loved the feeling of hearing a melody jump out of the keys I stroked; having that melody fill the house, fill the ears of those that were listening. It delighted me to recognize that I was creating something in that moment. It made me feel important, sure of myself.
I remember going to piano competitions growing up. I remember the nervous churn of my stomach on those mornings. I remember feeling as if I could not remember for the life of me the song I had to perform. My mind would erase, and in terror, I would frantically scan the pages of my music, trying to “re-learn” the notes that were already engraved in my brain, just momentarily covered by a wave of fear. I remember the initial waves of judging, done solo with only one judge. I remember the leather seats and the sound of wood scraping against the floor as I timidly adjusted my bench. I remember the judges, each with their own way of making me feel like I was about release the contents of my breakfast all over the keys. I remember my hands shaking as I began to do the required warm-up of two scale patterns.
All of a sudden, it was as if the keys came to life, and began to scurry all over the piano, like tiny black and white mice. My fingers couldn’t control them. Then, gradually, the keys came back to me, and my fingers flowed like stalks of grain flowing in the wind. My breathing relaxed, and my confidence grew. I remember the first breaths taken before each performance. One. Two. Three. I remember the slight lean into the keys as I began to pour out my heart through my hands. I remember the swaying and rocking my body subconsciously made, moving in harmony with the music. I remember being done, my hands resting slightly on the last note, as if to say, “Stay, stay in the room with me, and comfort me until the results.” I remember standing, nodding my head slightly, and expressing gratitude to the judge for their time. I remember coming outside the room, and the release of pent up breath exhaling from my lungs. My parents would be standing there, eyes lit up, faces smiling with pride, ready to congratulate me, no matter how I did.
I remember waiting, waiting for the results that would either confirm or deny my acceptance into the group there that day. I remember the burst of joy upon seeing my name as a finalist, followed by the pit of nausea realizing I would have to do it all over again, this time for a larger group, with more judges, ready to pounce upon my imperfections like a dog on a bone. I remember more waiting, waiting to enter the next room, waiting to see what the piano looked like. Would the keys be firm? Would they be tuned properly? Would the pedal stick? How was the sound, would I need to press harder to gain a better pitch? I remember not being able to think, or breathe, until my turn came. I remember the silence as people watched me walk on stage. I remember pausing, breathing. One. Two. And three.
I wish the trophies and ribbons that I received over my years of competitions could display the feelings and preparation that went into earning them. Oh, the stories they would tell …
I absolutely love playing the piano. I love the emotions that are stirred when I hear a song come to fruition when my fingers hit the keys. It’s an intimate feeling for many, something that can only be explained internally. The sounds that the rest of the world hears are not the sounds that a musician hears. It is so much different. It can’t very well be explained, but it is a joyful experience, nonetheless.