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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Discarded Opportunity

I don't think I've ever told this story to anyone before. That makes it a little bit harder to be sure of the details, since a retelling could be a good reference point in my memory. Some of the details which I do remember seem very off: for instance, I remember that this took place in a shack off in the middle of nowhere, next to a twisty road on a hill and far away from any life. My memory is clearly prone to hyperbole. But I'm sure it actually did happen in real life.

It must have been around eight years ago. Some famous pianist was coming from America to play some difficult concerto, and it said in the newspaper that he was giving a master class. When I read the column, I didn't think too much of it. I'm sure I wasn't too excited about the idea of a master class. But my parents must have encouraged me to go, because I went. There were maybe twenty seats set up in this little room with two upright pianos. The only people who had come were me and some older guy. ("Older" is relative, of course: he might just have been a teenager.)

The experience bore no resemblance to my expectations. I heard "class" and I thought I'd be sitting back and listening while some great pianist talked about something or other. I don't know what the plan was; it might have changed when no one showed up. But there was very little talking. The pianist came with someone else, and he was doing a lot more talking than the pianist. He played some sort of wind instrument, don't ask me which. They asked to hear what I could play. So I played my one and only composition, Celebration. I only played the first half of it, because I was embarrassed to go further. I sort of let it trail off and said "and then it continues from there.". I wish the story were around five years later, so that I'd have had more to do there.

The other person improvised some jazz for them. The guy who was doing the talking (whoever he was) complimented the playing. He said, "I really like what you're doing with your left hand. Usually the left hand is just accompaniment, but you're actually doing a melody with it." (I don't know why I remember this so clearly.) And for around an hour after that, it was just lots of improvising. Three-part jazz improvisations, with the two pianists and the wind guy. Then we all left, because it was clear that no one else was going to come.

But before we did, he made me an offer. He said I should come and play with them. I don't understand why. Maybe he saw some potential talent in my very primitive first composition. But he said the time and place where I should come, and I didn't see that as a real opportunity. I wasn't going to be a musician, I knew that even back then. So his offer was just words, there was no chance I was going. I said something to the effect of "I'll see if I can.", and he knew I wasn't taking the offer seriously. He tried to impress upon me that they'd played at Carnegie Hall, that they could teach me a few things.

Well, whatever. I didn't take the opportunity, and at this point it seems as though I might have imagined it. I left there, went up the winding hill to a bus stop, and waited for a half-hour or so for a bus to come.



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