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Piano playing: “The piano keys are black and white, but they sound like a million colors in your mind.” – Maria Cristina Mena, author

Sweaty palms, tightness in the throat and a somersaulting stomach.

Symptoms of asking out a girl for a first date?


But it’s also an apt description if you’re 6 and about to play your first piano recital. The pressure is pretty much over the top.

Or at least it was for me.

Some kids like to perform and others, well, it’s just not their idea of fun.

As I watched four of my grandchildren march up to the piano for the annual Christmas recital last week, it was apparent they didn’t take after me. Or, if there was some nervousness, they concealed it well.

More likely, it was like Ben Franklin said: By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Performance is all about preparation, whether it’s a piano recital or job interview. If you’re prepared, what’s to be nervous about?

You don’t have to be an expert on Tchaikovsky or “The Nutcracker” to enjoy the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies,” particularly if it’s being played by your 13-year-old granddaughter.

Or what about “Here Comes Santa Claus”? Our 10-year-old grandson played it well and of course I beamed in pride along with his grandmother and other family members.

I wasn’t the only one in the audience having a good time, but my guess is that these recitals also bring some trepidation for parents and grandparents. How will the student do? Will those many hours of practice at home pay off with a good and maybe excellent performance?

My first piano recital was held at the performing arts theater at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the location reflected my piano teacher’s college choice, and also that of her sisters. Betty Erickson was my first teacher and that initial recital was, in a word, scary. But it went well.

Last week’s recital included a new twist, which brought back some of that same unease of more than 60 years ago. My wife and I and two grandchildren were on the program to perform “Four Bells & All’s Well.” Though I had been involved in a duet or two in recent years, I had no idea that a quartet format was even a possibility. When broached with the suggestion, my first reaction was: How can four people sit on a piano bench?

No worries. The quartet went fine. And even if it wasn’t perfect, the audience was friendly – and forgiving.

Dec. 26, 2018