Her eyes glistened with a repulsive gleam of a smile on her face. I walked slowly hearing the whispering of my socks against the floor. It was that time again, piano lesson. Mrs. Zhang looked at me and smirked eerily. I sighed and took my place on the on the bench, close enough to smell my teacher. I put my shaking hands on the keys and began. Thad always loved music. My parents once told me I sang before I spoke, I played piano before I could ride a bike. I listened to everything from mariachi music to soft jazz. For me, there are secrets hidden in the melody of a song, filling me with a need to decode it.
That was why I had always loved to play and related to my old piano teacher, Rachel, who felt the same as I did. She had taught me since I was ten. I played by her side, learning everything I could, learning everything there was to music. Unfortunately, by my fourteenth birthday, she had moved on to follow her own dreams meaning, I needed a new piano teacher. I was cautious but willing to give it a chance. That willingness soon died. The new teacher came the next week. I was excited to start playing again. She walked through the door, eyeing everything in the room.
I felt something slithering in my stomach as she looked at me. She wasn’t pretty like Rachel. Rachel’s angelic platinum hair was replaced by depressed black strands; her crystal blue eyes that always seemed warm were missing and in their place were black ones. There is nothing else to say about them. They were dull. I grew cold. Mrs. Zhang smiled at me, her eyes piercing my soul. The excitement I had held before was a lonely memory. My mother came into the room to properly introduce Mrs. Zhang to our family. I had four siblings doing piano at the time.
She looked at every one of us and paused. Finally, she said her first words. “Hello my new angels. I am Mrs. Zhang. I will be teaching you piano. I have heard you have had lessons before so let us see where you are in placement,” She seethed through her smiling teeth, “Let us start with names. ” “Amanda,” seeped out of my mouth. She finished introductions and sat down my youngest sibling. It went that way, youngest child to eldest for piano, saving me for last. I was dessert. By the time I was seated in front of the piano, it was dark. I had taken my seat and started my scales.
I lost myself in the arpeggios, the notes musing together. I was lost in this world until a snap between my eyes had snapped me out of it. I looked over at my annoyed tutor. I had not noticed that we were done with the warm-up. I gave a small nod of an apology. She had me play a piece. I was allowed to choose any piece as long as it was memorized and she would look at the written piece as I played. I had chosen Moonlight Sonata. It was a personal favorite of mine; a piece of highs and lows and multiple paces all forming into a quick rush of sound.
It was chaos and yet, was completely under my control. When the last note was played, the “helpful critiquing” started. “No no no. Where are your dynamics? Where is your balance? You did not play as written! ” Mrs. Zhang screeched out. I had never played a memorized piece as it was written. After perfecting and memorizing a piece I would transform it to match my own style. My old teacher had understood this; my new teacher, not so much. After the first lesson, I had tried to please my teacher by robotically playing in front of her. Every suggested tempo was tried.
Every dynamic was attempted. I tried so hard I thought | would explode but, even with this effort I made plenty of mistakes. Each lesson I was given another “friendly critique”, feeling me with dread. It had never been as hard to please Rachel as it had been to please Mrs. Zhang. It was a constant struggle for me to stay eager to learn in her lessons. I had confronted my parents on my struggle only to be given uncaring remarks and a sarcastic “sorry” from my mother. For the first time ever, music was something I was not looking forward to play.
When this realization hit me, it truly hit me. I had been walking home when thinking about what to do and had walked into a tree. Although I was physically suffering, I skipped home with a new determination. I thought long and hard of how to make piano class enjoyable again until something happened. An actual thought had clicked in my mind. I would write my own piece. If I was the artist, I would never be judged or told it was wrong. No matter what I did, it could always be considered right and that made me ecstatic. I went straight to work to create my composure. It took me weeks.
It was not easy to write music and I would never take the music I had learned for granted ever again. I couldn’t believe I had managed to keep it hidden from m teacher with my big mouth and nosy siblings, but I did it. I was ready for presentation. The next week when Mrs. Zhang came. I knew I was gonna hit her with my music, like a “tree”. As soon as she walked through the door of my house, a grin sneaked onto my lips, hiding a secret in its folds. One by one my siblings played, just as frustrated as I used to be. By the time it was my turn, the teacher had noticed something happening.
Is everything alright Amanda? ” She questioned me. “Yep. More than alright. Actually, instead of doing the usual pieces I was wondering if I could play something that I have created. Would that be alright? ” I prayed she would say yes. She looked at me, curious as a cat and waved her hand, signalling me to begin. With that, I started. I played every note, every key with emotion trying to let the teacher feel what I was feeling. My finger floated, finding their place as I raised the key lower and higher and even higher, until the last note rang out so quiet, you couldn’t tell if you really heard it.
My fingers shaked, waiting for a response from my teacher. She finally, after a moment, looked at me and to my surprise, held the first real smile I had ever seen her wear. “That was… good. ” She shook off her thoughts and continued the lesson. I was for the first time, in a long time, happy to play my robotic songs for my new teacher. Playing the composition didn’t change the way my teacher taught but it did change my perspective. Even if someone else had a different way to play, I just have to focus and face the music. Afterall, what is music without a few falls?