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Do I want to blog about my Mom’s health, surgery? 12:48 AM Oct 10th
Can’t sleep tonight. Too many things. Mind is racing. 3:40 AM Oct 14th
Doctor just gave us the good news! First time I’ve seen my Dad cry in years. 12:28 PM Oct 14th
Just saw Mom in CICU 1:21 PM Oct 14th
Had lunch with Kirsten. So good seeing her again. Asks if I Twitter? 2:19 PM Oct 16th
Mom finally moved to her recovery room. Time for me to breathe again. 12:34 PM Oct 17th
Heading back to NYC, but will be back in another week. 12:28 AM Oct 20th
Auditions, auditions, auditions. If I have to play “Part Of Your World” one more time… 1:20 PM Oct 21st
Has it really been a month since my last blog entry? 2:43 PM Oct 22nd
Just “re-lived” the Bernstein “Mass” at Carnegie Hall. So proud of my friends. So moved by the music. 10:22 PM Oct 24th
Well, I guess DST is next weekend after all. 11:52 AM Oct 26th
Carnegie Hall: Pollini playing Beethoven, Schumann and Chopin. How classic(al). 2:34 PM Oct 26th
Hint #2: Last row of CH = leg room and behind-the-seat storage. 3:01 PM Oct 26th
Four encores! Including the G-minor Ballade! Grazie! 5:39 PM Oct 26th
Walking through Central Park.. Guess it has been a few weeks, there’s color on the trees and on the ground. 6:06 PM Oct 26th
Little girl, age 9 – “It smells like popcorn and horses.” 6:34 PM Oct 26th
Thank You, Matthew Weiner! -Can’t wait for Season 3! 10:55 PM Oct 26th
Pack-a-little, Post-a-little… Getting to head back down to Richmond for the week. 11:24 AM Oct 27th
The wheels on the bus keep going round and round. 100 miles to go. 8:37 PM Oct 27th
Being a ‘rent to the ‘rents today. 1:36 PM Oct 28th
Over at Steve’s right now taking a break from the parents. Soup’s On! 6:28 PM Oct 29th
Pumpkin & Coconut Brownie Ice Cream from Bev’s Ice Cream http://snipurl.com/4uzsi 8:07 PM Oct 30th
Happiness is a non-sold-out Bolt Bus. Two seats for the price of one. 7:31 PM Oct 31st
Off to MoMA for the last Member Preview Day of the new Miró exhibit. 2:06 PM Nov 1st
This exhibit keeps going and going and going… “Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement” 4:50 PM Nov 1st
Tracking a couple of friends in today’s marathon, and wondering how delayed the online results are. 11:58 AM Nov 2nd
Standing amid a sea of Silver, Blue, White and splashes of Orange! Inspiring!! 4:05 PM Nov 2nd
About to head out for some post-Marathon sushi with my brother and Maria. 5:58 PM Nov 2nd
Off to meet some friends for a morning-after-the-marathon breakfast. Could be interesting. 10:01 AM Nov 3rd
Times Square at 2:28pm EST – CNN Central http://snipurl.com/53wod 2:29 PM Nov 4th
Overwhelmed, but in a good way. The sense of Purpose and Hope was palpable in the midtown air (regardless of who you voted for). 6:14 PM Nov 4th
Just listening to the Cheering and Car Horns outside my apartment in Harlem!!!!!!!!!! 11:11 PM Nov 4th
OOPS! HA!!! ABC (in NYC at least) just interrupted their coverage for a Flomax commercial?!?!?!?!? 12:26 AM Nov 5th
Magnolia, Levain and Shake Shack all within seven blocks of each other… Is that a good or bad thing to know? 1:56 PM Nov 5th
At Lincoln Center about to experience Doctor Atomic.. And watching a lot of people trying to sell their tickets on the plaza… 7:30 PM Nov 5th
Intermission at The Met: People eating,drinking, chatting… leaving… 9:43 PM Nov 5th
Back at MoMA to catch the Kirchner once again before it closes… And the Van Gogh and Miró, of course 3:33 PM Nov 6th
Back at The Met tonight for the Berlioz. Technology and Art striving for their potential. I hope. 7:15 PM Nov 7th
Ah… The (Bittersweet) Hot Chocolate – with Marshmallow – from ‘wichcraft in Bryant Park http://snipurl.com/59hf1 3:52 PM Nov 9th
At Zankel Hall tonight for Jeremy Denk playing Ives Concord & Beethoven Hammerklavier. Monster program! 7:13 PM Nov 11th
Bravo, Jeremy Denk! Bravo! 9:52 PM Nov 11th
I was looking for an excuse to be lazy today: Thank You, Rain. 1:26 PM Nov 13th
Coolness in progress at MoMA http://twitpic.com/lrk1 3:43 PM Nov 14th
I wonder if they’ll have the Basil Hot Chocolate in Bryant Park today… 1:34 PM Nov 16th
More cupcakes coming to midtown Bway & 53rd… (Magnolia recently opened in Rock Center) http://snipurl.com/5n42q 2:45 PM Nov 16th
Thank you, Mr. Carfizzi and Mr. & Mrs. (Grant) Murphy for a wonderful recital. http://snipurl.com/5nlok 6:27 PM Nov 16th
Well, I thought I got here early enough to get in line for the movie. Probably #100ish, and still 30 minutes till they open 7:54 PM Nov 16th
“Slumdog Millionaire” – SEE THIS MOVIE! Thank You, Danny Boyle 10:35 PM Nov 16th
Everyone seems to be seeing snow this morning except for me – and I like snow!?!? 9:31 AM Nov 18th
ReTweet: @BravoTopChef Get ready! Spike is back and so are his shenanigans. Make sure to follow our boy tomorrow during the show 2:12 AM Nov 19th
Best lunch deal in Chinatown – 5 dumplings for $1 http://twitpic.com/mqr2 4:39 PM Nov 19th
Warming up with a Café Mocha at Abraço http://twitpic.com/mr4z 5:35 PM Nov 19th
Hmmm… No line… very tempting… http://twitpic.com/mra7 5:55 PM Nov 19th
What I’m playing this afternoon.. http://twitpic.com/mxqr 5:14 PM Nov 20th
Dinner at El Toro Partido – Torta! http://twitpic.com/ne8e 4:54 PM Nov 22nd
O Christmas Tree Stand, O Christmas Tree Stand… (145th & Broadway) http://twitpic.com/nvns 9:15 PM Nov 24th
On the Acela down to DC for the holiday weekend http://twitpic.com/o4xg 7:13 AM Nov 26th
@BravoTopChef Thanks, Andrew! 11:02 PM Nov 26th
Eat Well. Stay Safe. Happy Thanksgiving! 11:31 AM Nov 27th
Horse-Drawn Carriage rides in Carytown this weekend http://twitpic.com/osvq 5:21 PM Nov 28th
Then down to Cafe Gutenberg for dessert http://twitpic.com/ouyl 9:05 PM Nov 28th
My dessert: Oatmeal Stout Chocolate Float http://twitpic.com/ouz6 Yes! Beer (stout) and Ice Cream (chocolate gelato) 9:08 PM Nov 28th
Back at Bev’s Ice Cream – http://twitpic.com/p3kx Chocolate Chai with… 7:30 PM Nov 29th
With a Cranberry chaser – http://twitpic.com/p3lk 7:31 PM Nov 29th
My parents’ church actually has TWO late seating breaks during the mass. 12:22 PM Nov 30th
Who knew that my parents liked Vietnamese food? http://twitpic.com/p928 12:49 PM Nov 30th
Anderson Cooper swimming against Michael Phelps on “60 Minutes” tonight. 7:44 PM Nov 30th
Back on the bus back to NYC. Thankfully no one got trampled once the driver opened the doors, but there was definitely a throng. 7:29 AM Dec 1st
Take a Moment to Remember – World AIDS Day 2008. 9:44 AM Dec 1st
Happiness is a D (or A) Train across the platform. 3:49 PM Dec 1st
Anyone else going to the World AIDS Day “Bacharach to the Future” Benefit at New World Stages tonight? http://tinyurl.com/5jrv2j 3:54 PM Dec 1st
Condee Rice playing Brahms? I knew she was a good pianist, but… The Quintet is a LOT of notes! http://tinyurl.com/5q96px about 16 hours ago
Just saw a cop tie an elderly man’s shoes – I love New York City! about 11 hours ago
It’s beginning to look a lot… http://twitpic.com/ps3q about 8 hours ago
I really should be asleep by now, but just came up with an idea for a new – and long overdue – blog entry. about two hours ago
Well, I guess I am going to finish this blog entry tonight, well, this morning. -Who needs sleep? 27 minutes ago
Done! Publish. less than 5 seconds ago
I guess the first few weeks of 2008 with their leisurely, almost worrisome pacing have finally given way to a virtual flood of work: auditions, auditions, and yet more auditions. Over the past two weeks, I have found myself sitting at a different piano, on a different bench or chair, in a different studio from practically one day to the next. A variety of shows, styles, people and situations. Lots of changes and adjustments, and a bit of self-appraisal along the way.
From the multitude of self-help and self-image books lining the best-sellers shelves, it seems (and reassures?) that all of us go through times in our lives and in our careers when we begin to question the Why, the What If, the Is It All Really Worth It aspects of our Existence, of our Happiness. Well, I guess I’m going through one of those phases right now. Rather, I’m coming out of one of those phases right now.
As one best-seller states in its title, "Don’t sweat the small stuff." But what if your Life is made up of the "small stuff"? What if your daily routine centers around deciphering small black dots and lines of ink on a page?… Of trying to read words printed in newspaper-sized typefaces under dim lighting that still somehow manages to cause a glare?… Of determining whether that was a nod to start playing or just a simple breath?… Of wondering if that smile was genuine or simply polite?
I will be the first to admit that I do not do everything well, that I do not play everything well – in the brief life-span of this blog, I know I’ve already stated that a few times. We all have our specialties, our comfort zones, our limitations. I will be the first one to turn down a job when I know I will feel like a fish out of water the whole time I am in the room. I hate being uncomfortable when I’m sitting down at the piano, and if I know that I am not able to fully contribute to the process at hand, then I would rather not be there. Alas, due to the nature of my work, and the nature of the biz, sometimes what looked like a "comfort zone" on paper, turns out to be anything but comfortable.
I’ll spare the specifics – the small stuff, as it were – but I will say I recently had one of those days. It’s natural to have those thoughts of I can’t play, I’m not good enough go through my head whether or not I happen to be playing at the time – I could have just been listening to some music rather than playing it. But I happened to find myself unexpectedly put into a situation where those thoughts, those doubts were just reinforced and, in a sense, amplified over the course of a few hours. At the end of the day, I could not help but feel a bit disheartened, small… Helpless and Non-Helpful. Nothing was said directly to me at the time, even though my own mind was filling in the blanks throughout the day, however, the coda for my day consisted of a pleasant phone call, followed by a not so successfully suppressed flow of tears on the subway ride back home.
What could I have done? It’s not like I was hired blindly for the gig – someone thought I was good enough, the right person for the job. And for a portion of the day, I was "right", I was more than "good enough". Then came a part of the day which had me summoning up a skill set I have never had to use, I never studied, and, frankly, never wanted to use nor study. But I was the one who got the call that day, who was sitting at the piano, so I did the best that I could do. I even voluntarily abstained at times when I knew any contributions from me at the piano would hinder rather than help – at least I had enough knowledge to discern when those situations would arise. Alas, getting that phone call confirming my "lack of ability" (the quotation marks are mine) did nothing to ease my own self-analysis of the day’s proceedings. Even though I fully understood what was being shared with me at the time – and, in retrospect, it allowed me to take a very real sigh of relief – the phone call just confirmed, albeit falsely, the thoughts and doubts that had been lingering in the back – and sometimes in the forefront – of my mind throughout the day. I can’t play. I’m not good enough. And worst of all: I did not help today.
It’s amazing how fine and malleable the line between a "Can" and a "Can’t" can be from situation to situation, from moment to moment. The Mind is most certainly a powerful Thing, and sometimes that power is used for Good, sometimes for Bad, and sometimes for the In Between. Lots of gray. Now that I’ve had a few days to process everything, well… Maybe "process" is not exactly the proper word. If anything, I’ve "displaced" what happened, or "re-placed" it. The whole situation was unexpected and new to me. In a sense, it was also new to the people who had hired me: they had never seen nor heard me using the skill set that I was called upon to use that day. In fact, after my work for them in the past, they had assumed that I could play Everything, and play Everything well. Now they know. Now I re-know. (And this was truly not a case of, "You know what what happens when you assume?…")
When I was in college, there was an inevitable sense of competition – some would call it jealousy! – between piano studios, between teachers, between students. Comparisons were unavoidable due to the closeness of the practice rooms and the not-so-soundproofing of the studios. Sometimes, I would even go as far as accompanying someone else’s solo piano part in a concerto through the cinder block walls. Or, if I was feeling particularly feisty that day, I would play a song accompaniment at the same time – up a half step! My teacher was a wonderful Polish woman who came to the States in the 1960s. She was – and still is – a fine Pianist and fine Teacher. Growing up and training in Europe at the time that she did, she was very familiar with the "Russian School" of piano playing that was personified by Emil Gilels, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Lazar Berman, Vladimir Horowitz. She, too, was a part of that pianistic royal lineage having been a pupil of some Star Pupils both in Poland and in the United States.
My first lesson with her was not really a lesson at all. It was an interview. A two-way interview. After she had asked me some questions about my musical and personal preferences, she then asked me to ask her some questions. At first, I didn’t know what to ask, what I wanted to know, so she started off by giving me some answers: 53, married, two sons, two dogs (standard poodles), New England Conservatory, Catholic University of America, Prokofiev piano sonatas, Purple. Needless to say, I was caught off-guard by her frankness, her openness; consequently, I was also a bit in shock to inquire about anything else personal, musical or pedagogical at the time. However, that first lesson perfectly set up the Teacher-Student dynamic for our time in and out of Studio B-16 over the next couple of years. She had already begun planting, nurturing and insuring(!) the Idea that Music is not and can not be isolated to the piano studio. Whatever else was going on in our Life would most certainly affect our Music. It was all connected. Music was an integral part of our Life, but not Life itself. -She even required that we take at least one class outside of the Music Building each semester: she would not allow her students to isolate themselves figuratively, academically nor geographically.
I believe one of the greatest lessons I learned from her – as if that were not great enough – was that there was a difference between being Good and being a Virtuoso. Being Good ultimately results from one’s own honest self-appraisal. Being a Virtuoso is a label applied by someone else. Yes, one could be Good and a Virtuoso, but one did not have to be a Virtuoso to be Good. I did not have to be a Virtuoso. I did not have to work, to strive for something I was not meant to be, for a goal I never really wanted to achieve. It does sound very pat and simplistic – and maybe even a cop-out to some people – to say that someone knows how they fit in the larger scheme of things, but there is never anything wrong with Honesty. It truly does take all kinds. Just because I was not playing the Liszt "Transcendental Etude" that I could hear coming through duct work, did not mean that I could not still enjoy the Music that was being made.
So, as the proverbial dust settled from the events of earlier this week, and as I realized that the tears that I cried were a result of that situation and many other smaller matters preceding it, I remembered and was reminded (with the prompting of a very dear friend) that I am Good. It was the luck of the draw. It was not a matter of being "good enough" or "not good enough". I was simply the one who got the phone call to come in and play, when I would have been happier in the hallway listening through the door that day.