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.

Wordless Wednesday: Gershwin

I remember very little about my possessions I took with me to BYU in 1991. I know I took bedding and dishes and a Brother word processor and an off-brand Walkman and my cassette tapes. But other than that, I have no idea.

I lived on campus that first year but I still had quite a walk to where my classes were, and I never walked without my music. I know I listened to the Pretty in Pink soundtrack, and New Order’s Subculture, but more often than not, I traipsed amongst the leaves and snow of Provo listening to a tape my dad made for me.

On one side of the tape was Dvorak’s New World Symphony. On the other was a Gershwin trilogy: “American in Paris,” “Rhapsody in Blue,” and this lesser known piece. There’s something simultaneously melancholy and romantic about it. Though in my experience, all romance is melancholy in the end, so it makes sense.

This piece was the last on that side of the tape, and I rewound and rewound it until I was sure the tape would just wear out from exhaustion. Thankfully, it never did.

“Lullaby for Strings” by George Gershwin. I hope you enjoy it at least half as much as I love it.