By Shreya Sharath
In a doctor’s office, you are surrounded by white. White tiles, white halls, white chairs, white clothes, and white rooms. You never know what comes out of these white rooms. Some kids might be crying because they just got their flu shots; others might be filled with joy because they got a sticker. You perhaps are wondering whether or not you will be the child who is trembling as they walk out the door, or the child who is ecstatic because the appointment is over. As you walk down the hall, you hear faint sounds coming from all the rooms: crying, laughing, chit-chatting eventually evens out to a jumbled buzzzzzz. You then smell a strong, sterile, odor from excessive hand sanitizer and Clorox. “What’s going to happen?” you wonder. You wish you didn’t have to find out and you could just run out the door and carry on with your normal life.
Or at least, that’s how I felt walking through the bright white halls of the Saint Rose College basement for my NYSSMA piano evaluation. NYSSMA is a professional organization that evaluates young musicians in New York. You are judged on three skills: your scales (easy), a prepared piece, (mine was a Prelude from 24 Pieces for Children by Kabalevsky) and some sight-reading (not easy). There are six levels, each of which become progressively harder.
As I walked down the hall, I could hear beautiful notes coming from all the white rooms. Even though all the notes were not in key, each note still played a part in the lovely tunes. But aside from this, utter stillness filled the hall. It was probably because everyone’s nerves were acting up. Kids were shuffling in and out of the rooms. Some of them looked as if they were about to burst into tears while others had a confident smile.
Dad and I found two white chairs and sat down. I could smell the strong odor from the clear, green bottle of sanitizer that sat next to me. I looked around and noticed that everyone’s black and white clothes matched the elegant keys of a glossy piano. As I rode my train of thoughts, I tried to recollect the notes of my piece.
Listening to the piano is the magic that goes straight into your ears and right into your heart. Music isn’t something many people take seriously, though. However, music fills my heart with joy and excitement ever since I was very young. I would let my fingers dance on the piano and violin, and sing both songs in both foreign tongues and English.
I felt my dad’s soft hand hold me gently.
“You are going to do great!” Dad whispered.
I could only smile. I felt like a little mouse trapped inside a cage. I knew that it would be my turn soon, so I readied myself. A part of me was telling my mind that my hands were going to shake and the notes would come out all wrong.
“Shreya, you’ll go into room F in about 15 minutes,” the lady at the front desk said. F is for Fail, I thought.
I smiled at my dad, but then opened my eyes wide with terror. I could feel my pounding heart beat faster and faster every minute. The thoughts in my head swirled around like a tornado and I couldn’t concentrate. I bit my lip, and held my dress tightly. I took silent, deep breaths just like my mom told me to, but no matter how many breaths I took, I just couldn’t calm down. I heard this voice in my head saying that I shouldn’t even bother getting worked up, because I was already going to fail. Even though I knew that I should have been positive, I sided with the voice. Last year, I had completed NYSSMA with deft ease. A sense of calmness filled my mind and not even a hint of fear hit me. This year, I felt as though all the sweat would make my pale finger slip off the keys. I thought that my fingers would play all the notes in a different sequence, just as they did when I was playing at my winter concert. I was doing a duet with my teacher, and I started an octave higher than I was supposed to. I kept on trying to bring it down, but then the whole piece turned out to be a disaster.
“Shreya, you can go in now,” the lady at the front desk said.
I froze. Was 15 minutes up already? My seat creaked as I stood up and walked to the end of the white hall. I wished the plain door was an escape out of the room. I looked back one more time to see a thumbs-up from dad. Great, I thought, half-heartedly, as the notes of the Prelude swam around my head. I turned the black door knob and went inside the room.
The room had a gratuitous amount of white. There were white tiles, white walls, and even a white table. The only thing that stood out was the glistening, black piano. As I walked into the room I could see the judge writing her comments on the last player’s performance. Even her pen was white! I took a deep breath and cleared my throat. The judge looked up and gave a forced smile. I smiled back.
“Hello. Are you Shriya Sharit?” the judge asked.
I nodded earnestly. Whenever someone would read my name for the first time, they would always say it wrong.
The judge pointed to the black chair that stood beside the piano. I sat down and took a big, deep breath. She told me to warm up and feel the piano. I played all my scales, just to make sure that I didn’t make any wrong assumptions.
Then, my evaluation started. Sweat dripped down my face. I faced the piano and played my first scale on the magnificent keys. I made a mistake on a SCALE! The judge looked very surprised. Who makes a mistake on a scale?
I took a deep breath. Somehow, with nothing to lose, I felt my nerves leaving me, and I started to play the Prelude. My fingers had a mind of their own. They knew where they were going and I fell into the music’s trance. I closed my eyes and let my body take over. I didn’t even notice that the judge was there. When I finished the piece and opened my eyes, the judge gave a smile, a real smile this time. A fierce triumph welled up in my chest. Meanwhile, my face broke out into a tired smile.