Well, er...it is not my** piano recital although it felt very much like it. It was KB's first piano recital. He goes to this school of music where their recitals are a very formal affair. Having never gone to any student recitals for western music before and being used to the Indian arangetrams etc where things are a little more informal, I was sort of taken aback by the quietness and order in the music auditorium where it was held.
I should go back to the days leading up to the recital day. KB has been learning the piano for a year and three months now. He could have gone to a recital in June 2011 itself. But his teacher is a very dedicated and perceptive one. She told me that knowing KB's nature it is better he waits for a few more months before his first recital. She told me that he would take it hard on himself if he gets up on stage and gets nervous. She wanted to give him the time to mature a little and to feel more confident about his skills. I was a little disappointed because she always gave me the feedback that he was playing very well in class and that she never has to stick to the same song in the class and is able to proceed to the next song. Based on that I felt like, why can't he then take part in the recital? But I also know KB and I was grateful that his teacher was being sensible about it and not rushing him into a recital. I got over the mild disappointment I had and was glad actually that he was not going for the June recital. But before I knew it was October and I started getting mails about the recital from his piano school. The teacher made him practice two songs and finally decided that he would play one of those.
From November onwards, we focused more on this two minute piece when he practiced at home. Funny how a two minute piece takes so much practice to play well on stage. It was not a trivial piece in terms of finger movements for a six year old - so I was nervous that he shouldn't bungle up on stage. He used to get it right without any mistakes when he played in the best of moods. When he was not tired and when he was not thinking about the recital itself. But if he thought about it or if we bugged him to practice when he didn't want to, he would make mistakes. And he used to just break down alone in his room crying when he made a mistake and would always start over. Not just correct his mistake and move on. What do you do when some things like that are so ingrained in their nature? We can only be encouraging and try to let them sort out their own emotions. If KG were in his place, I would imagine she would just shrug and play that part again or just move on and finish the piece. My big concern with KB was that he might not continue if he made a mistake but would start over and that would look worse than moving on. His teacher too told him in a jovial way that "sometimes you have to fake it on stage. If you make a mistake, you don't start the song all over, you just keep going". He practiced his little speech that he had to give before the recital - as to which piece he picked, why he picked it, what he likes about it etc. The night before the recital he woke up with night mares and was screaming the name of his recital piece and mumbling random things. I had to cool him down with cold water because his head was so hot.
Murphy's law, of course has to come into the picture. Just the day before the recital, we had gusty winds and KB started coughing mildly. The morning of the recital he woke up with a fever. All that practice and he may not even be able to go to the recital?! I just kept my fingers crossed. Luckily he got a lot better by noon with a lot of TLC - steaming, ginger/honey extract, total rest, warm water etc. KB reluctantly agreed to wear pants (instead of shorts) and a vest and a tie and got ready for the recital. When we reached there, there were so few cars that I thought that this would be no big deal. Some five or six people and it wouldn't be scary for him. But when it came time for the recital, the whole place was filled up and the auditorium was full. The grand piano was so large that KB looked like a little ant in front of it. Since he was the youngest in the group, they called him first. He got up on stage very confidently and gave his speech and played his piece. When I saw the video later, I didn't feel like it was 100% like his school director said it was. He made one slight mistake on one note and the tempo was not perfect. But it didn't show so he got away with it. As he played, I could literally feel my heart beating. Thank heavens he played well and was done with it. Phew - first recital done! From next time on, I hope/expect it will be less intimidating. One of the parents came to me and said that he was floored by the way he gave his speech confidently and played with gusto. Another mom came to me and said the same thing. The director of the school (who did a pre-test before the recital as well) came to me and also gave high praise for KB's performance. I was totally taken by surprise because I honestly didn't think about all that. He did a good job but somehow I didn't feel so floored by his confidence etc. I know as his mother how much he had internalized his anxiety about this recital. So I could not feel anything but a sense of relief when it was done. Recitals are no big deal for some people, but for me because of KB's intense nature (where he wakes up petrified with night mares), this first experience was a big deal. I was just grateful it went without any tears for him. Everything else was a bonus.
B and I later talked about this whole thing. We as parents did put in some effort into this two or three minute recital. Not tiger mom levels. But it wasn't nothing either. The way I saw it was - it is important enough to give it your best. But it is not as important if things did not go well to cry about it. It is a small thing in the big picture of life but it is these little moments that shape up a person little by little. So in that sense I had to make sure we gave him the nurturing without it being damaging. But beyond that if he had not done well, I was sure neither of us would have said anything but kind words to him. I feel like this experience was a big one for me too because it made me evaluate what is important to me for him, as his mother. I feel like I got some clarity in terms of my emotions. I was in a way relieved when one of the dads told me that when his daughter was playing on stage his hands went cold from nervousness. Good, am not the only one! How about you?!