Wordless Wednesday: Bach and Trauma

I just knew, in all my 17 year-old wisdom, that I would be a professional musician. So I spent time my senior year auditioning for scholarships and music programs.

One such audition was in a giant church on a Sunday, competing against my best friends (who were going into vocal music; I was going into instrumental/piano). I had to play a Bach prelude and fugue for the audition.

I had memorized the prelude months earlier, but the fugue was more elusive. I was still memorizing the fugue the morning of the audition. When it was my turn to audition, I started my prelude, and about 16 bars in, I blanked. I had no clue what came next, so I basically just played arpeggios for another 16 bars until muscle memory finally kicked back in and I miraculously made it to the end.

I took a deep breath and started the fugue…AND I PLAYED IT PERFECTLY. I couldn’t believe it.

After my bows, I sat in the audience next to my best friend Mike and hung my head, trying not to cry. He wasn’t a pianist; he had no clue what had just happened. But when the judge sheets came back to me, the most damning comment was this:

“You have no business playing Bach, as you clearly do not understand him.”

Devastated, yes. Today, I would have flippantly called her a hipster, told her to get a life, and gone to TCBY for a banana split with Mike. My piano teacher at the time even told me that particular judge pretty much hated all teen pianists and I shouldn’t take it personally.

Obviously, my career-life has totally worked out, so it’s no big deal. But as I listen to this recording of the prelude and fugue, that judge was probably right. I never sounded this good.

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