Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mr. One-Note Wonder

Profanity used. You were warned. 

Confession: I am almost certain that I chose to be a musician in the Dance World as oppose to the Music World is because I am the worst when it comes to accuracy at the piano. Let's face it, 90% of dancers aren't going to know that you missed a note unless it's obvious. When it is obvious, you get the "look" from the whole ballet class. I know I'm the worse with accuracy because I've been told so, by all my piano teachers who's ever taught me. These mistakes aren't fatal mistakes, but seriously, ONE F*CKING NOTE. ONE. To be fair, the pieces I studied as a piano student are the standards in Piano Music Literature. Therefore, these are pieces my teachers have heard a million times and they know when a wrong note is struck. I can also recall having arguments with my teachers about the one stupid note and completely neglect the fact that I put my heart and soul into it. But in the Dance World? No one knows that I missed a note. But they do acknowledge the fact that I have somehow inspired them. When that happens, my job is done.

I think enough time has passed that I can actually write about Mr. One-Note Wonder.

It was four years ago before I had my iPad named Boyfriend. I was still lugging a huge ass binder around. Mind you, this was my updated super thick binder I had spent countless hours on. At that point, a few people had commented on how I am able to carry this monstrosity around from one job to the next. Some people even took the time to flip through my music to appreciate the organization and time that went into my binder. So perhaps I let that whole "I spent so much time on it" get to my head.Wait, no. Not "perhaps." I DID let it get to my head. It was my blood and sweat.

So here's what happened.

It was a Tuesday morning adult class. I came strolling in, and I set my bag down next to the piano like I always do. A few ladies greeted me with a few smiles and "hello's". I pulled my huge ass binder out and set it on the piano. With a few minutes to spare, I pulled out my phone to see what my Facebook friends were up to. Nothing interesting. Someone went to Starbucks. Someone ate toast. Someone's kid barfed all over the house. Ew. Then I looked up to see a guy approaching me. There was no greeting. No, "Hello, how are you?" No smile. He approached me with an agenda.

Him: Can I see your Chopin Waltz in c# minor?
Me: Um...sure! 
[Opened my binder to the waltz and stepped aside as he sat down at the piano]
Him: [Scans through my music with his finger and stops at the top of the second page] You got this note wrong. Why?
Me: Wha..Um...Uh...Daa...Aai...Uh...Human Error?! 
Him: Well, then fix it.  [Walks away]

ASSHOLE!!!!!! And a few other choice-words.

I sat there dumbfounded about what just happened. All those moments of me arguing with my old piano teachers came rushing back. IT'S ONE F*CKING NOTE, DAMMIT!

Here's the thing, I'm totally cool with people pointing out my mistakes. I make them ALL THE TIME. It even happened during a grad school audition, and I humbly apologized, fixed the mistake, and I still got accepted. But it was the way Mr. One-Note Wonder approached me. He came over with a Plan of Attack. He pointed out my mistake as if to put me in my place. Then. He. Walked. Away. WTF?!

It SHOULD HAVE happened like this.

Him: Hello! How are you doing today?
Me: Fine. What's up?
Him: Can I see your Chopin Waltz in c# minor? It's been really bothering me. But in this passage, it's should be this note. And I've been hearing this note instead.
Me: Oh BALLS! Thanks for letting me know! I really appreciate it. Dammit Becca Wong!  

Then I would've made 30 circles with a red pen around that spot, and on my spare time, play that measure over and over again until it's in my muscle memory.

See? How hard was that?

Here's another thing. If only I were a tall and large male pianist with sausage fingers, this would not have happened. This only happened because I'm a short, Asian female, and I look a lot younger than I really am. Damn you, Asian Skin!

It's true.

I remembered taking class with a well-seasoned colleague playing for the class. This guy is fabulous. He's been doing it for as long as I've been alive. All the teachers love him, and use his CDs when he's not available to play for class. He's also a very tall and large man. I remembered him playing a Chopin Waltz in Eb Major during Ronds de Jambe one day, and I was so distracted at the fact that the only recognizable thing was the melody. It was like hearing an old man tell a story. The outlines of the main points are still there. The details however, were an interesting variation of the original. Once I got over the initial shock of "Those aren't the notes!!", I was able to carry on. The music served a purpose. I was Ronds de Jambe-ing. And I thought to myself, Mr. One-Note Wonder wouldn't DARE walk up to this tall and large Eastern European man and tell him he's playing his Chopin Waltz all wrong. There would be lots of words exchanged, and a dramatic exit.

Since that little incident occurred, I started to watch Mr. One-Note Wonder more carefully during class. I wanted to see how good or bad of a dancer he was, since he was so quick to fix my one-note. I also made sure not to play that waltz in front of him ever again because I don't need him fixing my one-note. When he dances, he's always a beat behind. BEHIND. Musicality much? Ironic, no?

My point of the story?

In both Dance and Music worlds, we strive for perfection. One little mistake, and we go pound our heads on the pavement. We have one off-day, and we go crying in a bathroom stall.  At least I use to.  Now I just take it to Facebook and broadcast my mishaps. But for the sake of artistry, can we simply let go of one little mistake and remember why we are here in the first place?

I'm here to make music. I'm here to dance. I'm here to move you, the audience. I'm also here to be inspired by the beautiful people around me.

Yes, perfection is important, but we have to give ourselves a little bit of slack. One of the teachers I play for said it best. For one, his approach is a little backwards. I love him for it. He teaches his students how to move first, before fixing the little things like, "Point your foot, engage your back, turn out, turn out, balance, hold it, hold it, HOLD IT!!! Higher, higher, no higher..." No, he tells his students, "Just dance! Just! Move!"

Then he said something I will always remember: Feed the Spirit first. Then feed the body.

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