It went well. First off, lots of people attended, though not too many performed. My lovely cousin Natalie, who I have always felt lucky to be related to, showed up, as did my dad and a near stranger (a lapsed cellist, himself) who I had met earlier that day while buying party favors. Most people had at least 1 supporting guest, and one of my youngest had a whole flock of people to cheer her on as she nailed a pizzicato version of “Long Long Ago”. I’m sure you’re sick and tired of the whole Emily drumbeat of “approach, approach, approach”, but it’s what I got: The people who performed were all extremely successful in very important ways. They showed up, were vulnerable enough to use their new techniques and tweaks from the last lessons, and were absolutely gracious when the applause would erupt. Sometimes this is the hardest part: to accept praise after a monumental effort! The only disappointment I suffered was related to the few students who did not perform. A handful had real reasons to be absent, but the remainder are walking that line between making excuses and stalling out altogether. I don’t get as upset about it as I used to: I need to husband my emotional investment for the students who warrant it, and cultivate a cheerful detachment for those who do not. But back to the performers, themselves. Each did the best rendition of their chosen piece! What a rare treat! Sure, notes were missed, and a duet stumbled a bit after a counting discrepancy, but tone quality and technique were at a very high level across the board. I should mention that the duet had not previously rehearsed together. Absolute baptism by fire, and they held it together admirably. In fact, I joked that all the right notes were there, just perhaps not exactly on the assigned beats. But even the additional duress of being thrown together didn’t steal the joy out of their performance, and their efforts stole the show for a bit. I was too frazzled to take any pictures, and L, who usually assaults every occasion with a camera, was doing double duty as sweetie and accompanist, so I don’t know if I’ll have any pics to post.

Which leads me to the not-so unrelated handstand.

My students were pretty uniformly nervous before going up, and although pre-performance I can still get the jolt of adrenaline, it is a familiar feeling that ends up manifesting more as excitement and anticipation than stomach-swirling terror. I think that maybe it’s not fair to preach my “stay cool” approach without subjecting myself to something that, while unimportant and mundane, scares the crap out of me. And that is the yoga handstand: Adho Mukha Vrkasana. When I’m in a class and this posture is called, I usually default to Child’s pose and hope the teacher doesn’t thoughtfully come over and try to prod me into attempting this thing. They will say, “Oh, don’t worry. Just go next to the wall!”. Depending on my level of defense mechanism, I will, and have done, one of the following:

1) politely decline, citing concern for my wrists*

2) go over to the wall and try not to vomit as I nervously fling myself towards the impossible yogic megalith 700 times while adorable, lithe girls gleefully delight in a perfect handstand, or worse, Scorpion pose.

3) if the teacher persists past my happiness zone, put my hands in prayer and say “namaste” as I roll up my mat and go off, in search of a martini or perhaps some Nigori sake.

*I do have to watch them, but I think the pose is actually beneficial for the wrists if done well.

So today, inspired by a similar story in this month’s Yoga Journal, I am setting a goal. In a month, I will take a picture of my best attempt at a handstand. If I am who I say I am, my most sincere offering will be good enough, even if that means it’s a blurry image of a not-quite upright flail. I write this blog after my first (handstand) practice session of the day. I went outside and kicked up 30 times. Once or twice, I stayed up for about 3 seconds. In between each repetition, I was plagued by a fun combination of giddiness and self doubt, but I am a fan of brute force when it comes to these things. So 3 times a day, I will kick up between 30 and 40 times, and I resolve to continue breathing and cultivate a calm awareness of the process. Or so she says.

Lastly, I have been working on 2 podcasts, one addressing playing fast, the other about making mistakes in easy parts. And have you checked out the new site design? It’s still bockety and yes, I know I spelled “miscellanea” wrong, but it’s coming along. Many thanks to Neal for all of his hard work!

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3 Responses

  1. Party favors — That’s the right attitude.

    My teacher has difficulty getting students that started as adults to perform. Y’know, when you’re 9 years old, it’s ok to sound like a 9 year old. But when you’re 50 and you sound like a 9 year old, it’s tough on the ego. But isn’t that part of the dream? To recapture and go back to that youthful learning time? Learning new stuff and ego are not terribly compatible.

  2. My teacher didn’t even schedule her annual spring class recital this year – she said too many of her students weren’t interested.

    Much as I dislike those pre-performance jitters, I am disappointed. For one, I love playing in an ensemble of cellos – there’s nothing quite like it. For another, a recital sure motivates…

  3. Party favors, indeed. I think parties are good ideas, full stop. Celebrate everything, because life is hard enough. I was going to have one to celebrate my 1st piece in Strings, but I thought it would seem too self congratulatory. Truth is, I just wanted an excuse to wear a dress and have fun with my friends.

    Careful there, with sounding like a “particular age”. There are 9 year olds who would be insulted! That’s my whole schtick with these recitals: you sound like you, doing the best you can with what you have, and that’s enough. Playing without a disclaimer “I know this sounds *****” or “Pretty good for someone my age”, etc. is tough, but worthwhile. My girl Pema Chodron talks all about the ego and how it is essentially a knife we use to stab ourselves over and over again. Learning new stuff is a universal good, even if it hurts!

    I am always tempted to cancel each and every recital, as I see the performers dwindle from 18 to 12 to 7. I never have, though, because it would only punish the people who DO stick it out! Guanaco: if you’re ever in CA, I will schedule a recital around your visit, just to make sure you get to play as much as possible. Terry: I think we are going to have a summertime cello geek out with a lot of sight reading and group cello play (followed by, of course, a party), so keep an eye out for an email invite.

    Thanks, guys, for reading and commenting. It’s been a little dry around here, even though I thought I was posting some good stuff. You are two of the more reliable bloggers that, word for word, do not disappoint, so it’s flattering that you come around these parts. 🙂

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