Tuesday, March 10, 2009


11 years ago I performed my senior recital. For a music major the senior recital is a HUGE deal and basically shows off if you were really cut out for this type of thing all along. (There are plenty of other opportunities for that along the way, but for some reason there is still that ridiculous amount of pressure.) I was responsible for 20 or 30 minutes worth of music and performance of at least three languages.

My dress was awesome. My recital mate was fabulous. And I was incredibly relieved when the night was over. I made a few mistakes, but nothing that anyone besides my voice teacher caught. Still, while I was on a huge high from the relief of being done with the thing that had been looming over my head for four years of college, and people said amazingly nice things, I couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't all that great. That somehow, I wasn't up to par and I should have done better. I performed my recital with an ear and sinus infection, but I couldn't make excuses for why my voice didn't have it's full everything that night. I just had to perform and make it as good as it could possibly be under the circumstances.

My teacher met me at the stage door before all my family and friends could get to me and counseled me to wait at least a month before I listened to the recording of the evening. Even two months later, it made me wince. I heard every single thing that didn't go quite right. My diction wasn't good on that French word. My vibrato was a bit wobbly there. My sound wasn't light or free enough there. I listened to it once more about five years ago with a similar reaction.

Well, I listened to my recital just the other day for only the third time since that evening. I don't know if it's all the years of teaching voice lessons, or just the fact that I'm more comfortable in my own skin (and vocal chords) now, but I actually liked what I heard. It amazed me. I've spent all these years thinking that night was "eh", when really it was pretty darn good for a 21 year old.

It was like a revelation. I could still hear the mistakes, but I could also this time hear all the good things. The night of my recital I felt like I had pulled an elaborate hoax on everyone in the audience. "They don't know what I know, that's why they compliment me."

But really, it was a decent performance. The compliments weren't just out of niceness or ignorance. They were legit. (Well, I'm sure there were one or two divas who didn't mean them, but there are always a few of those.)

It's sort of weird to have to shift my thinking all these years later. Could it be that I should maybe go a little easier on myself when I am being super critical? I don't know. Honestly, I'm not very hard on myself about most things. But, wow, do I feel relieved letting something that happened all those years ago go.

I feel lighter somehow.


hi, i'm nancy! said...

so glad that you have learned to pat yourself on the back. :)

Carrie Nation said...

This sounds a lot like something that happened to me. I played the first movement of the Beethoven violin concerto with my high school orchestra in the last concert of my senior year. As I remember it, the performance was great and I felt wonderful about it and I got a standing ovation and everything (ok, I know, it's high school so that's not hard to get). Anyway, the next day in orch we were sitting around listening to the recording of the night before. And magically the machine didn't start recording my piece until AFTER the cadenza, which means it only recorded the last 30 seconds. It was heartbreaking. So we re-recorded it in an empty auditorium the next week, which was of course not the same, and I felt awful about it. I hated listening to the recording. Like you say, all I could hear were all the mistakes. I listened to it again about a year or so ago, and magically just like you, I realized that it was actually a lot better than I thought it was. (Really good for 17, if I do say so myself.) A little distance, a little time, I guess.

Actually, I've had similar experiences with pieces of writing, too. Funny how we treat ourselves.