A friend of mine once described her daughter's piano playing this way -- "She's not perfect, but she plays with a lot of feeling!"
I hope that may be what was in people's minds after my piano playing in church yesterday. Part of my good fortune in playing for this Unitarian-Universalist congregation is that they are a very generous audience. Granted, most of the little errors I make go probably unnoticed, but the grand climax in my postlude yesterday - a jazzy rendition of Go Tell it on the Mountain - was filled with a rich feast of four and five note chords, meant to crash high and low in bouncy epiphanies. They crashed all right, minus the epiphanies. Two pluses: I didn't drop a beat, and I was able to redeem myself with a light jazzy finish.
Still, they applaud. They smile. They come and thank me for the music. One fervent 20 or 30-something man said, "you have an energy in your music." I loved that one. Another, more apropos compliment came from a good friend with a big smile - "There was that one section that you had to hack through with a machete, but you made it!"
Even after all this time, I still get all the symptoms of performance anxiety before I play - dry mouth, accelerated heart, head rush, tingles throughout my frame that sometimes even make my hands shake. All too often, I even get the symptoms while I'm in the middle of playing, especially if I get into a tangle that has to be hacked through with a machete.
Weirdly, I think part of my attraction to performing is standing up to the challenge of battling my fear. It has gotten better over time, and part of the improvement came when I made the definitive acknowledgment that I will never be perfect. Some people play perfectly, but I don't expect to ever be one of them. Acknowledging that I would absolutely make mistakes was liberating. Then my task became making the best of it, rather than stressing over perfection. And I found that making people happy, or thoughtful, or filling them with emotion was all possible if I played with my heart - regardless of slip-ups.
When I make a mistake, I try to put a good face on it - either fake through it, or if it is too obvious, smile and keep having a good time (even if I'm breaking into a sweat and feel like running away). Besides, who doesn't make mistakes? In this audience of people who are trying to find the best in themselves, maybe an imperfect piano player offers reassuring solidarity!
Yeah, that's the ticket.
I can laugh at myself making excuses too. The fact is, though, that aspiring to perfection is all well and good. Certainly I'd like to play perfectly, and I do try. But, it is an elusive target. Perhaps the more realistic goal in every aspect of life is to learn how to perform well, with lots of feeling, in the constant pursuit of perfection, and to try, try again.
It felt like a frisbee day, so I put Kate through her paces this morning. If you missed the photos of her acrobatics last time, here is the link.
The ice is in, but maybe not yet to stay. If we get a good stretch of arctic chill without precipitation, we could have some spectacular skating.