Sunday, July 3, 2011

The First Concerto

Love this kid:

He turned 10 yesterday...TEN! I'm not sure how that happened. I remember when I turned 10, and my grandmother told me that I'll be double-digits for the rest of my life. T.E.N. (But more to come on his birthday). I took this picture at swimming:

While I was editing it, it struck me that I'm not looking at a little boy anymore. This is a picture of a big kid. His chest seems wider to me or something. It was a surreal moment.

In May, Austin started with a new piano teacher. When we met for the first time, she was explaining her protocol with me and recitals and festivals, etc. She mentioned that they do a Concerto Festival in November and asked if Austin would be interested. I thought that he would, but didn't think much more about it.

A few weeks later, Austin was assigned his piece for the festival: a 31-page Concerto duet meant for 2 pianos. Granted it is a duet, but still...31-pages?!? When I was 9-years-old, I had never played 31 pages (or even 16 pages, if you account for the duet). In fact, I'm pretty sure that I have never played a piece even close to 16 or 31 pages. I was quite surprised by not only the length, but the difficulty of the piece. After Austin had gone to bed, I sat down and played it. It is a pretty challenging song. I was quite doubtful that he would be able to pull it off. I wondered if perhaps his teacher hadn't evaluated his level correctly or something. Of course I never vocalized any of these doubts in front of Austin, but I was definitely concerned that he had gotten in over his head.

Although he never said anything, Austin was quite overwhelmed at first. But I just tried to be really encouraging and I helped him as he started. The first week, he didn't even play anything; he clapped the rhythm every day. And he just started with the first little section-maybe a page and a half or so. After that, he practiced that small portion with his right hand only. A week later, he started on his left hand. Finally, and very slowly, he practiced his hands together. Once he got that section down, they repeated the process on the next small section of the song. Occasionally, he needs to go back and practice a handful of measures over and over again to perfect the notes or the timing. He just keeps working at it, and before he realizes it, he has another small section learned.

The other day, I picked up the music and realized that he is already 11 pages into this song, essentially 1/3 of the way. I was shocked that by following the process of practicing small chunks, starting slowly and gradually building up to speed, and really focusing on those areas that need a little extra attention, he has progressed quite far in just 2 months. I am absolutely positive that by the time the festival rolls around in November, he'll be ready. I'm so excited to hear the finished product.

I've thought a lot about how this is a parable for our lives. Sometimes, when we are given trials or challenges, it seems like a large mountain stands in our way (or in Austin's case, a 31-page concerto). It seems too overwhelming to conquer if we are looking at the entire scope of the situation. It seems like there are no answers. And yet...we are asked to wake up every morning, get out of bed, put one foot in front of the other, and try our best. We try to conquer just what that day has given us (perhaps a small section of the overall problem or challenge). We take it slowly and carefully and (if we are smart) asking for assistance through prayer. Eventually, we look back and realize that we have actually made a little progress. We realize that the more we try, the more we work, it may even become a little easier (sometimes). We realize that we really have no choice but to try and endure and do our best.

Sister Marjorie Hinckley sums up everything I am trying to say:
  • There are some years in our lives that we would not want to live again. But even these years will pass away, and the lessons learned will be a future blessing.

  • God is what He is because He knows everything. And the beautiful thing-perhaps the thing I love most about the gospel-is that everything we learn we can use and take with us and use it again. No bit of knowledge goes wasted. Everything you are learning now is preparing you for something else. Did you know that? What a concept!

  • Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said, "We are here in mortality, and the only way to go is through; there isn't any around!" I would add, the only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.


Lindsay said...

Wow! Please record it and post it when the time comes, I'd love to watch him play that!

Kim and Brian said...

I can't wait to hear his piece either! I love how you applied it o our own lives. So true! Thanks for your post!

Jackie said...

Austin amazes me on the piano- he always has. Can't believe how talented he is at such a young age. I definitely want to hear him play it! I also love the application to life. You are so great at that Emily. :-)