Facing My Fears at Piano Competition

By Tiffany Z.


Peering out of the dirty car window and into the harsh and blinding sun, I could feel the steady thrum of the car engine, so calming and different from the violent and chaotic thoughts and doubts swimming in my head.


Was I accidentally going to go quicker than what my teacher and I had planned, or was I going to mess up horribly? All I knew was that I was not looking forward to the next few hours of my life.


I felt nauseous even thinking about it. I really wanted to do well, as my hard work had given me the “scars” of poorly cut nails and the strain I felt when trying to play louder. I knew I had come a long way since I first started the piece, and should be proud, but I still couldn’t help but feel that this experience wouldn’t be worthwhile if I didn’t do well. My parent’s happy grins and congratulatory pats told me that they were proud, although I could feel their wish for a daughter who would win a prize at the annual piano competition. The thought of disappointing my parents, or seeing the hopeful expression of my teacher’s face be crushed made my heart wrench. They had all been eagerly awaiting for this day, after all.


Finally, after endless stop signs and dizzying turns, we had made it to the Fort Bend Music Center. This was where I was going to perform my piano concerto, which is basically a piece for two pianos: one accompaniment, and the main part (my part).. My legs felt like wet cement as I dragged them out of the car and trudged into the music center. The only thing keeping track of time was a red, tissued hammer in my chest, beating faster and faster with no signs of stopping.


Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, we were at the main stage. Its creamy white walls, two gleaming black grand pianos, black and white paper posters littering the wall and old, red, faded carpet made it impossible to forget where I was. The black and white signs on the wall that said “Fort Bend Music Center” kept on reminding me of my location and what was about to happen. It was as if they wanted me to be more fearful and apprehensive. It was going to be an interesting day.


Shortly after I took a seat in the middle row next to my parents, the competition started. After a few contestants, it was mine and my teacher’s turn. Too soon. I was not ready. My legs and everything else in my body seemed to be working against me, as I took the longest walk of my life to the stage, when in reality, it was probably only 20 feet away. My heart was thumping in my throat as my cold and sweaty fingers seemed numb. My legs grudgingly obeyed me as each step closer to the stage meant one step closer to death. Not only had my legs had turned into a stiff, rusted piece of aluminum waiting to be oiled, but they had also forgotten how to walk.


When I finally sat down at the piano, I felt as if every inch of the universe’s fate had been put on to my shoulders. I could feel the heavy air of doubt I created for myself, and in my mind, I could see the judge’s expectant looks, the audience’s impatient sighs pressuring me to start , and my inner doubt telling me I couldn’t do it. My stomach also couldn’t hold my breakfast in anymore. Everything would be decided in only six minutes. In this short period of time, it seemed like my whole life would be decided: my parent’s happiness, if I would be met with a scowl or smile and what my award would be. As you can tell, a lot was at stake here. Unlike letting that thought take over me like previously, I decided to press delete on that thought and have fun. I took a deep breath and nodded at my piano teacher to signal I was ready.


The moment that my fingers hit the piano, the piece flowed out of my fingertips like a fast-current stream with no signs of stopping. I felt my lungs letting out a breath of air, my rigid posture slowly loosening, and the warmth coming back to my body. I couldn’t even believe that I was so worried in the beginning. Near the end of my piece, I noticed that the more I relaxed, the better I sounded. I couldn’t believe that the secret to success was that simple. As the last note rang throughout the room, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was finally done with my piece! All this time, I thought that this was going to be a chaotic experience, when the truth was, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I then stood up, smiled, bowed, and walked off stage. I couldn’t have been happier.

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