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.