Piano Disaster

You sit in the waiting area of the studio, checking your phone for last minute well wishing messages. There were none. Clearly, no one cares; not that anyone was expected to anyway.

You open your book; the notes are scattered across the page, with scribbles in pencil you had written all over it. Deftly, you lift up your hands and play on the imaginary keyboard on your lap, hoping the running through of correct fingering would perhaps help you raise your score by a few marks.

Freeze. The candidate walks out from the room, and you are next. The lady at the registration table stands up and gestures for you to come. You feel the tingle of nervousness as you stand up; with every step you took the adrenaline escalated. You purse your lips in anxiousness, and the lady checks your particulars. Then, she indicates for you to open the door and enter. Gingerly, you clasp your clammy hand over the knob and turn it. The door opens, and you enter.

There is silence in the room once you enter; it is sound-proofed after all. You look towards the black, rectangular, beautifully polished and tuned instrument, and see a bald Caucasian sitting at the desk just meters away from you, and you greet him. Good morning, Sir. Ironically, you didn't really feel good being where you were right now.

You pass a sheet of paper with your name on it to the examiner; on it will be where he puts the marks and comments. He smiles at you, only to make you scared, and calls you by your name, before he invites you to take a seat before the black and white keys. He asks you to adjust the seat to your liking, and you do so, although, it is not as much to your liking as the one you have at home.

He asks you a question, and you answer, saying you want to begin with scales first. Scales. A strange word for notes that run up and down. At least, you always thought that way. Besides, you never liked scales anyway, and you wonder why you begin with them every year.

He asks you to play a scale, an easy one, and you do, your fingers running up the keyboard smoothly. He asks for another in his thick British accent, and momentarily you are stunned. Was it G major or D major he had asked for? You pick one anyway, the one that you could play better, only to be told later that he believed he had asked for D major and not G major, and you resign yourself to playing an extra scale, your clumsy fingers tripping over themselves.

Here come the arpeggios, which you wish could be played in staccato so that your small, pudgy fingers need not strain to connect the notes. You mess up all the five that he asks for, and you see him shake his head and scribble something down on that sheet of paper. You panic, and the anxiousness seizes you and immobilizes you when you are asked to play your exam pieces.

You flip the book with trembling fingers and place the score on the stand. You tell the examiner the music piece which you are playing. Prelude and Fugue is A flat by J.S Bach. He tells you to begin when you are ready. And that is mistake number 1; you were not ready when you began.

You play the first two bars well, the notes clearly resounding, and you smile. But then, the air-conditioning seems to have frozen your fingers which were rapidly fly across the keyboard, and your heart begins to pound in fear as the music become discord. You missed out a full bar, and your right and left hand begin to lose coordination. And in sheer panic, you forget where you were in the score, and your hands stop in their position, the reverberating notes vanishing, giving way to the abrupt silence that hung in the air. And as though it were not painfully tense enough, the examiner looks up, chin resting in his hand, an eyebrow raised as he watches your rigid figure, as though studying you like an intriguing specimen. You did not know what to say, and to break the silence you stammer a sorry, your voice trembling. It is only then that he tells you to begin the piece from the beginning. But with your shattered confidence, it was as bad as the first time anyway.

You play the other two piano pieces as horribly as the first, and as though sick of hearing you play, the examiner quickly gives you a piece to sight-read from. It wasn't as hard as you imagined, only that you could feel the examiner's gaze at you, making you cringe.

Then, the aural tests. You stand by the piano while he opens a book and sits at the piano. He gives instructions as though you were an idiot who never did this before. He plays something, but you are so nervous you didn't even seem to hear it, and he asks you to sing. You sing a melody created from nowhere and completely not what he had played. He plays it again and asks you to name the chords. You do, but he stares at the book, eyebrows raised after he hears your answer.

He flips to another page, and plays a three minute long piece of music. Then, he asks you to describe it. Again, you do, but before you finish he cuts you in and says a "thank you" before he tells you to leave. Frustrated, you do not say goodbye before you go, forgetting that it just might cost you 5 marks off your score.

You go outside, feeling yourself deflate with relief from the tension. You look at the clock; It was only a mere 30 minutes, but it had felt like forever, and you were glad it was over. But quickly, you felt it all rush back again. All of a sudden you wish you could reverse that half an hour, and replay whatever you played just now, amending all the mistakes and removing any disharmony in the music. Then, you wish you could reverse the last month, so that you could practice harder. It goes on, until you wish you had done your foundational learning of the piano when you were 5 more diligently so that you would not be where you were right now.

It is only then that you break down.

Your mother embraces you as you walk out teary-eyed from the piano studio. But you know she does not really care, and you call her a bitch. Quickly as the bout of tears came, you ended them and went about stoically, strutting off, as though failure did not mean anything to you.

I felt like that today. It felt like this the year before, and the year before. The only difference between what happened to you and and what happened to me is that I did not cry until now.