concert

A minute to remember

A minute to remember

By Pedro Gómez de la Garza

I was reading the newspaper, Nicholai Tibets (Russian) had won again. That would be his 49th fight and his 49th consecutive victory, he had been born to fight, or that´s what everyone says. He was the sensation at the time, everyone would talk about him. At just the age of 19 he had become the best boxer in the world. He had beaten all of his foes in the first round by knockout. No one could survive his ferocious fighting style.

I remember the first time I read about him, he had been boxing for just three years, but still he was at the top. How? Everyone was wondering, how could he beat all the professionals who had started fighting since they can remember? How? There was no answer, not even he knew the secret of his inhumane strength. Once in an interview, he said that every day since he set his goal, he had done 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats along running 10 miles each day. But that alone could not be. That simple exercise routine could not possibly be the secret of his strength. How could it be? Any normal teen could do it. So was he really born to fight? was he really meant to be the best in the world?

“Don´t waste too much time reading the newspaper Thomas,” my brother interrupted my thinking, “only three more pianists and it´s your turn.”

He was right, I needed to clear my mind, I had prepared myself for this moment, and it finally came. Hours and hours sitting next to the piano and now the time had come for me to show the results of my sweat and sacrifices. But I knew it was useless, there were too many extraordinary pianists in the competition; I could never be at their level. I was just and average pianist maybe even a mediocre one. After listening to the first participant I decided to get out of the hall, calm my nerves think about something else until my turn to play comes.

I left the newspaper on the chair I was sitting on and went out for a smoke. It was freezing outside, I knew I shouldn´t be smoking minutes before my turn but I needed it, although my hands would freeze and I wouldn´t be able to play. I started thinking again about Nicholai. I needed to think of something else than the perfect interpretation of the first pianist I heard. I was nervous, even with the cold, my hands were sweating; I could not play that way. After I finished the cigarette I went to the restroom so I could wet my hand in hot water and then dry them with that brown recycled paper they always use.

My parents always tell me how talented I am, and how gifted, but I know those words are not true, those words are just because I´m their son. “This is not a competition with others” I remembered my teacher saying those words, “this is a competition with yourself, just do your best and the results will come along.” Some loads of bullshit, if I´m not here for the first place, then what for?

I remembered when I understood Nicholai´s words in the interview. What he really wanted to say is that perseverance is the key to success. And so I started to play for two to three hours every day. But, could that be enough? I know the other pianists would play for eight hours every day, but I just could not do that. Was I lacking will force? Motivation? What?

“Michael! It is your turn,” my brother had always been there to support me. My parents had made so much effort to afford my private piano lessons, to buy me a new piano; I needed to reward them, but against so strong foes, how?

I entered the hall, and glanced at my teacher, she was excited. I walked to the piano, it was a Steinway for concerts, beautiful. With my left hand I touched the piano and bowed to the public and to the judges. There were four of them, two Russians, one Chinese and one American. I sat on the piano and concentrated. I felt hot, the hall was like an oven. I started playing.

I began with a prelude and fugue from Bach, one of the easiest, certainly not at the level of my fellow competitors. I went through it perfectly, better than always, I felt great. Then, it was time for my Beethoven sonata, I could feel the sweat of my forehead dropping to the piano and to my fingers making it more difficult to play, but finally I played my third and last piece and the most difficult one, a polonaise by Chopin.

I heard the clapping of the public and stand up, and I looked at the judges, the two Russians had a cold feelingless look in their eyes but the Chinese had a smile, I knew he had approved my Chopin.

The time for the judges to declare the winners came, I was so sure I was not in the first two, but I hoped for the third place or at least an honorable mention. They gave away the honorable mention, the third and the second place. It was all over.

“And the first place,” started the American judge is for, “… young pianist Ana Fedorova …” not me. I cannot describe what I felt, sorrow, regret, desperation, I don´t know. But the judged continued “and Michael Hall!”

 

What I felt that minute was worth remembering.

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