My daughter had her first recital this weekend. What started as a total disaster ended up being a moving experience. I had no idea what to expect of a two-hour recital of children playing guitar, but it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable live music experiences I’ve ever had.
First, the recital (near) disaster of 2013.
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from her music school with information about the recital, such as time, location….and dress code. Suggested dress code was semi-formal/formal, so last week I took her shopping for a black blouse and pants. She did not want to wear a dress or skirt and was not happy about being forced to dress up in anything.
Fast forward to the recital. She was with her dad last weekend, so he arrived early with her and I showed up about 15 minutes prior to the start time. As soon as she saw me enter the building, she stormed up to me and announced with exasperation that she was the ONLY one dressed up. I peeked inside the concert hall and indeed, every single other kid holding a guitar was dressed in jeans and t-shirts. Wtf?
I showed Julia the email but that didn’t help. She was starting to panic..a combination of embarassment of looking different and fear of getting up on stage. Her dad tried talking with her while I sat down with my son and started watching the performances.
I got a text message from her dad: “We are behind the stage. Not looking good for her performing today.”
I sighed. Part of me wanted my daughter to learn a valuable lesson about not caring what others think and facing one’s fears. The other part of me really wanted to see her perform.
I texted back: “I can run home and get another outfilt”
“Jeans and boots, please.”
I literally ran the three blocks home and grabbed a suitably casual outfit, then ran back. When she saw me enter the side hallway with the bag of clothes, she lit up and ran to me, grabbed the bag, and ran to the restroom to change.
Having avoided a nuclear meltdown, I settled in for the long haul of listening to other parents’ children perform. I looked at the program…19 songs. Ugh. I prepared myself to daydream, but then the funniest thing happened.
I absolutely loved listening to these kids. And watching them. I would see the same progression for each kid almost every time. First, they would make the loooong journey to the stage and walk up the stairs – sometimes glancing timidly towards the audience, other times completely focused on getting to the chair. Once on stage, most of them would sit, almost frozen, as Teacher Vincent ensured the guitar was in tune. Most wouldn’t look at the audience, they were laser-focused on Vincent. He’d hand the guitar back, and then go stand on the side of the stage. All the young profiles followed him as he’d walk off, and then he’d nod and they’d turn toward their sheet music and start playing.
The program mostly went in order of skill, so the first few performers played very short, basic pieces. It was *awesome* watching them focus so hard. Some bent over their guitars, clutching them like a life ring buoy. Others stared at their hands as they played. You could just see the gears turning and the mind whirring. It was beautiful.
As soon as they finished, it was almost a shock…like, oh…I’m done. I’m DONE! You could see the realization and relief wash over their faces and what had previously been a study in palpable focus suddenly became joy and pride. The applause of the audience helped to snap them out of their concentration and their shoulders would relax and then they’d stand up and take their bow with a huge smile. Every single one of them exited the stage much more quickly then they entered.
While I enjoyed watching the younger kids perform, the teenagers were the ones who really moved me. They were so talented and calm and actually looked at the audience, so there was much more of a connection.
I teared up listening to the heartfelt singing of a young man who played “Volcano” by Damien Rice.
A blonde teenage girl brought to mind what my daughter might look like in 6 years or so, and I giggled when she sang Fun’s “Some Nights” and instead of singing “what the fuck” sang “What the f?” to keep it family-friendly.
An Indian teenager sang the beautiful and sweet song, “Begin Again” by Taylor Swift and she performed it with such heart that you would think she had written the song herself.
This is Silicon Valley, so of course there was the kid who played a duet with a track on his iPhone, which was his pre-recorded melodic death metal version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
My daughter enjoyed the recital but wants to take a break from lessons for a month or two. I’m seriously considering taking her lesson time!