Friday, January 28, 2011

Magical Moment 358, "The Highest Compliment"

Anyone who struggles with worry or anxiety knows that there is no break from it. Despite reassuring myself, reasoning with myself, and preparing the best I know how for everything, I'm constantly surrounded by feelings of self doubt, nervousness, and apprehension. Even though I've been playing for a ballet school and company for five months now, I still feel butterflies every time I go to work. I'm so thankful for the job, and so surprised I got it, that I'm terrified the other shoe will drop. I'm probably the most inexperienced pianist on staff.

I feel pretty comfortable with most of the instructors, but occasionally I play for an instructor I've never met, and that's when things can go not-so-smooth. Everyone likes their class to run their own way and they have a certain taste of music they prefer. The other day I was asked to stay for an extra class, which I agreed to do. I walked into the classroom, hoping to see an instructor I've played for before. My hopes dropped when I saw who it was.

Months ago, when I had no idea how a ballet class ran, I observed this woman's class. And I was stunned. She moved so quickly between combinations, that the pianist barely had a moment to change sheet music. She was all business and expected a great deal from her advanced students. I marveled over the pianist's ability to keep up and prayed I would never be scheduled with her. 

I smiled nervously at her and she gave me a nod before getting down to business. 
"The first combination will be an Adagio, but don't think of it as an Adagio." 
Uh huh. I had no idea what that meant. I only had a few seconds to choose the music, so I selected one of my usual Adagios and began playing it at a faster tempo, hoping that's what she wanted. It wasn't. She stopped me a few bars in and asked if I had something else. Now I was really flustered. I flipped the page to a Chopin piece that can be pretty versatile depending on how I improvise it. I'm not sure why, but that seemed to do the trick.

When the dancers finished the combination, I glanced up to read her face. She looked directly at me and remarked, "You play beautifully! I'm standing here getting chills!" 
I mumbled a stunned "thank you," suddenly embarrassed that all eyes were on me. 
She turned to her students and asked asked, "Does she play for any of your other classes?" There was a round of "no's" to which she replied, "That's a shame."

All at once I felt like I just might make it through this woman's class. It still required much concentration. And she still stopped me a few more times to ask for a different piece. But I didn't feel less-than. And when the class was over, she again addressed me directly, "I haven't seen this kind of spark in these dancers in a very long time, and it's because of the way you play."

That may be the highest compliment I've gotten in a very long time. And I wrote about it today, not to brag or boast, but to remember. The next time I feel inadequate or self-doubt, I have to remember the positive things that I know are true and shut out the lies I tell myself.

"...I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation." ~Isaiah 12:2

Other ballet inspired posts:


Anonymous said...

that's amazing!!! What a great story. I'm so glad you wrote about it.

laughwithusblog said...

You know the kind words my kids or my husband say about me that I blog about sometimes? That's why I write THEM too! During the dry times they are refreshing to remember.

Steve Gravano said...

A beautiful story, and a great reason to blog about it.

Hilary said...

That's wonderful. To have your art so appreciated is a beautiful thing.

Robin Malherbe said...

Thanks for sharing that. I definitely need to be reminded of this often...

Lori said...

Beautiful! This brought tears to my eye's because I understand that fear all too well and to get this unexpected gift is just so sweet. Thank you for the reminder. XX

Elizabeth Grimes said...

Thank you Kyla. :)

Esther, Writing about it I suppose is one of the easiest ways for it to really sink in, and then I can remember it when I need to. Thanks for reading. :)

Thank you Steve. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

Hilary, absolutely one of the BEST feelings.

Robin, you and me both! Thanks for reading.

Lori, Oh how sweet! Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only person to feel that way, but it's nice to know I'm not alone. Thank you for reading and I'm so glad you enjoyed it! :)

Emelle said...

That's a compliment that counts!

Hen Jen said...

that is a wonderful moment, and wow- a great example of how heartfelt praise can lift someone up, even in the midst of a hard/trying situation..she still made you feel good, even while be exacting. I guess we should all think about how we can build people up, even when correcting or being 'business like'...