"First semester freshman! Yeah! You're jumping in the pool!" These are the words of my violin professor, as he's beaming at me during my lesson. I could protest this, but I don't. I'm too nervous about the competition, which begins in just a couple hours, to protest his logic. In fact, I think in my head, "You shoved me into the freakin' pool!" But technically, he is right. Even though I have a massive guilt trip, I could have said no. I could have taken the guilty feeling like a woman and said no. But I didn't. So I guess I did kinda jump in the pool, even if he did help me to the edge.
Only half of my lesson is devoted to my actual concerto. The rest of it is a pep talk. "Have you ever fantasized about playing a solo with an orchestra before?" Prof. Thompson asks me.
"Tell me about it! Take me into your fantasy!" He looks at me with anticipation.
I've never been asked this before, to take someone into my fantasy world. I stare at the wall. "Well...my family and friends are in the front row...not that I'll look at them because I'll be focused on my violin...or the conductor to make sure I'm staying with him."
Prof. Thompson waves his hands. "No, no! You're bringing reality into this. Stop! Just focus on your fantasy. What are you feeling? What are you doing?" I was expecting him to keep going with the questions, like asking me what I was wearing or playing. But he stopped there. Leaving the question open ended in a way. Just waiting for me to tell him what is going on in my mind. So I start talking.
"Well...my family is still in the front row...and I'm not afraid. I play loud and every note right. And everyone's jaw drops." For some reason it's hard for me to explain all of this to him. There are so many awkward pauses in between words. I look at Prof. Thompson, hoping he'll be pleased with that answer.
"Does it feel good up there?" he asks me.
"Yeah...it does." I smile at him.
"Good! Now hang on to that! Play it [the concerto] again and this time play with that confidence you have in your fantasy!"
There are so many more parts to my fantasy...which some of you may not really care about, but they are very important to me! For instance...
My dream dress is a sweetheart top dress that has a sheer fabric covering it, acting as sleeves. It starts as a light green-blue and slowly "drips" darker to a deep blue-green. Or it could go the other way.... Over top the relatively full skirt is a peacock feather pattern in a sheer fabric. It actually looks like feathers over the dress! This particular dress doesn't look like it would be a twirly dress, but it is! My hair is long-ish and it styled in a "cascading waterfall" up-do sort, down enough look beautiful but not in my face or eyes.
Now, my concerto...I'm playing the Wieniawski Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp minor...the entire thing!
Fast forward a few hours to right before the competition. I've been giving myself the "fantasy pep talk" for the past half hour as I've been going through my piece. Am I nervous? YES!!
In the hallway behind the stage, I'm waiting for the person ahead of me to finish her concerto so I can get this over with. I want to do it and I don't want to do it. I'm completely freaking out mentally! My mind is focused on one thing: I'm getting judged. That's what happens in competitions. And that is my major fear currently. A close second is the fear of completely messing up my piece in front of the entire "audience" of seven people, including my violin professor who has such high expectations.
Expectations. That's what it all comes down to. I'm afraid I won't meet the expectations people have of me.
Prof. Thompson comes out the stage door and beams at me. "You ready?" He asks me, a little too excited.
"No, but I guess I have to be."
He gives me a skeptical look at my dry tone of voice and laughs a little. "You don't have much of a choice now."
"Nope, so let's get this over with." I'm trying to get him to go ahead and let me play so I can get out there, play, and be done.
But no, he starts rambling on about something that's supposed to make me feel better, but it's not working. He keeps going and finally I stop him. "You're not helping." It comes out a little harsher than it probably should have been.
He gives me a funny look. "You're really nervous aren't you?"
"Yeah!!" We went over this a hundred times already, I think. Finally, we went backstage. Finally. And the fear starts to take over my body. Dangit...
"So how should I introduce you? As AnGELica?" Prof. Thompson gives me a goofy smile and I lift my music to hit him on the head but stop just in time. No...he's my professor...better not do that...
And just like that, I'm on stage, playing my piece. And I'm playing it with a soloists attitude. I don't play it perfectly, but I know that I am playing and look more confident than I did in studio class just ten days previous. And suddenly, I'm at the last measures of my cadenza, and by a miracle of God, I play them perfectly in tune and proudly sing out the last notes.
But after bowing, my legs begin to seriously shake. Once in the safety of the hallway again, I lean against the wall awkwardly, just breathing. I'm in a state of semi-shock and nervousness withdrawal. Then Prof. Thompson comes up to me, his mouth open in a smile. "You did it!" he exclaims, putting an arm around me in a hug.
I just smile weakly and breathe out. "Yeah..."
He goes on to say other things...but my mind has shut off, only focused on that fact that I survived my first college concerto competition and that I'd played the last measures better than I ever had. Finally Prof. Thompson stops and looks at me expectantly. I let the silence linger for a couple seconds before I sigh "Yay" in a very distracted tone. Prof. Thompson laughs. He understands that I'm not really here anymore.
I'm still amazed at that night...especially that it was only five days ago! I'm amazed that I made it through. I'm amazed that I actually enjoyed it. I'm amazed that I played like a soloist.
So, I guess I'm going keep swimming in this pool for a while. :P