As I listened to Sharon Eubank share her childhood stories of piano performance mishaps
in this inspiring Christmas devotional, it brought back some vivid memories of my own piano performance mistakes.
At my first Sonatina Festival, I was instructed to "warm-up" while the judges finished their remarks for the previous competitor. So not knowing they were expecting a few warm-up scales, I warmed up by diving into my song, waiting for them to stop me when they were ready for me to play the "real performance. Instead, I was horrified internally when they just had me move on to the next movement. I was too timid to interject that I had not been playing the first movement with "performance level focus," I was merely warming up my fingers and mind.
Later, I was asked as a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to play a musical number for a missionary gathering. Missionary life is very busy and I had very little time to access a piano for practice but fortunately had packed a book in my suitcase with this version of "My Heavenly Father Loves Me" prepared to perform.
The next day for an even larger gathering at Stake Conference, I was shocked when the visiting leader remarked on how lovely my performance had been the day before, and he invited me to come up impromptu and play another piece! My repertoire of memorized songs fit for the occasion was pretty empty after 8 months without any real consistent opportunities to practice, so I quickly fumbled through my book and found the only other piece I thought I could make it through impromptu... Mary's Lullaby. As I walked down trembling after playing a not so perfect performance with thoughts of my failings still rattling my nerves, I just hoped he didn't realize this was a Christmas song that I was playing in the middle of Spring!
In this competitive world, we tend to put a lot of pressure on children and ourselves to "perfect" our skills, our grades, etc. and we may feel like our efforts are a "complete disaster" at times when we don't reach that idealistic mark. The loving response of Sharon's leader to her failure is such a powerful reminder. "It doesn't matter how it turned out. Everyone could see how much effort you put into it, and we love you whether you can play the piano or not."
This led me to contemplate my focus as a teacher and a parent. Am I focussing more on perfection or effort? In a profession that requires me to continually be giving a lot of feedback, I think it's important to remember to acknowledge effort and progress often, even if the results may not measure up to perfection.
You can access the basic version of sheet music for My Heavenly Father Loves Me here.