Practice, practice, practice!
I've just returned from a weekend in New York. What a whirlwind weekend it was. To catch the 7:33 Amtrak out of Baltimore, I had to leave my house at 6 a.m. We pulled into Moynihan Station a little after 10. Having taken the escalator upstairs, I still couldn't find the exit to the street. Fortunately, I was meeting a friend, and she talked me up more flights of stairs to get to street level. Already I'm overwhelmed by the city that never sleeps!
A little more than 24 hours later, I hailed a taxi to take me uptown to Carnegie Hall, The draw? One of my students was performing in a recital! I first met Anda in 2019, when she was a 6-year-old beginner. Always eager to please, still we struggled to read notes, learn rhythms, make music. But she had enthusiasm, and a mother who was equally eager for her to succeed.
I actually credit the pandemic with her unparalleled learning curve. When school went online, we also moved from in-person lessons to Zoom lessons. Anda did well in her school studies and excelled in her music studies. Not being able to go outside and play with her friends, she sat at the piano, for hours, every day. Not only did she learn to read those notes, the pitches and the values, but she also learned to express herself musically at the keyboard. Her parents, noting her progress, bought her a fine instrument to play. She played Beethoven's Fur Elise, she played Handel's Passacaglia, she played soundtracks to video games that I can't even pronounce.
Last summer, her mother asked if I thought she was ready to prepare for a piano competition. I've never prepared for a music competition; I have qualms about making music competitive. But I agreed. Anda had certainly shown she's got what it takes. They chose Mozart's Rondo alla Turca, a fast-paced piano solo in sixteenths, arpeggiated chords, phrases in octaves; in other words, a lot of notes for 8-year-old hands. We had 6 months to learn it, memorize it, and polish it for the Elite International Music Competition.
And polish it she did! We were lucky the actual competition was a) in-person, and b) local. Anda played beautifully The comments from the adjudicator matched my own thoughts: questions on phrasing, use of pedal, and the like. Anda accepted the critique with grace, and we awaited the results. Second in her age group! The prize for all her hard work? A place in a recital at Carnegie Hall in New York!
How thrilled was I, her teacher, to be invited to attend this recital. And what a show! 46 children in all, ages 3 to 18, performed music of great difficulty, all with such grandeur, such finesse. I have reconsidered my reluctance toward music competition. These children were poised, happy, artistic. I was delighted to be in the audience, absolutely proud of Anda's success, and looking forward to a future bright with music. Not only will I be able to say, "I knew her when..." but also, "I got her started!"