Monday, May 25, 2009

Violin (posted to Facebook on 7/12/08)

My hands are shaking with an epileptic consistency. I'm waiting for the judges to call my name, so I can rise, play, bow, sit down, leave. It's that simple, a seemingly ancient ritual that I've known since I was in elementary school.

But why be so nervous then?

Three Overton High School students, teenagers who attend the Memphis City School known for its prowess in the arts, sit stiffly in front of me, their tuxedos straight, their demeanors focused. And here I am, a Cordova High School kid, slightly slumped in my chair, my violin casually placed in the open case next to me, eyes darting this way and that in my nervousness. My mom is sitting near me in Hamilton High's auditorium. She puts a warm, slightly comforting hand on my shoulder. I turn around, and she reads the look on my face before it even settles in. "Don't worry about them," she says, "focus on the music."

The music...the music. I close my eyes, trying to wipe my sweaty hands on my skirt, chanting this mantra to myself, willing my mind to stop its pinball progress from thought to thought.

And that's when they call my name. It's show time, I think to myself, not exactly soothed, but not as skittish as I was before. As long as I get through, it'll be fine. As I climb the stairs to the stage, I say a quick prayer to God, asking for a serene spirit no matter what happens.

As I place my bow on the strings, my breathing slows. There's a huge shift at the beginning, and I have to focus or I'll miss it completely. I know that the audience is staring at me intently; as the only violinist in a sea of singers and pianists, it's expected. The dead zone silence between the end of their applause and the beginning of my first note seems infinite. So I take deep breath and start at last.

The essential shift from A to A calls me into a world where nothing else matters. This song, Czardas, has become an escape for me. My existence has of late been plagued by the hustle and bustle of senior year deadlines and drama. But when I place the violin under my chin, when I feel that familiar weight on my shoulder and proceed to play those first five notes...all that troubles me melts away like the last of dreary winter snow in the face of spring.

The solemn melody casts a spell on me, willing me to forget, telling me to rest in the otherworld of Monti's creation. As I play this time, at the competition, the same is true; the voice calls, I answer. And rapture rises from the strings. There is a deep relationship between the music and me. It's one of understanding, of love. Each passage in the song awakens a different emotion for me. It's as if Monti and I are discussing facets of existence over dinner--and understanding each other, beyond barriers of language and time. Though I miss notes in places where I've practiced countless times, that doesn't change how the piece affects me; as in any intimate relationship, the good and the not-so-good must be taken together.

My fingers caress the strings, my bow coaxing out their tones. I sway with the emotional windstorm that Czardas summons. Nothing else matters to me, not the few sour notes here and there, not the tuxedoed Overton High one but me and my violin. My hands still shake some, but that's not what I'm focused on. Nervousness doesn't quite hold much importance.

A warmth fills my body as I reach the end of the piece. The notes come together, faster, faster still, and my fingers fly. Eighth notes, accidentals,'s as if I hold the power of creation in my fingers.

The final chord brings the crowd to its feet in a generous ovation. The noise snaps me back into the reality of competition and everything else Id previously left behind. Until the next time I answer the call of the music, I have the memories of the experience past to hold on to.

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