This past August, when our music director, Julie, asked me to play during the Offertory, I decided to dust off a Chopin piece in my repertoire, the Nocturne in E-flat Major.
During my first year of adult piano lessons, my piano teacher Stephen had the temerity to suggest that I study the score away from the piano.
Last summer, when I clicked through photographs for my website, I noticed something amiss on the shots of my hands at the piano. The pinky of my right hand, rather than cupping over the keys, jutted straight out, flexed with an unnatural tension.
Several years ago, my piano teacher, Stephen Wu, suggested in his low-key manner that I record myself when I practiced. I allowed a lot of time to elapse before I finally worked up the courage to follow his suggestion, despite his occasional, gentle reminders.
When I awoke this past Sunday morning, I could feel a familiar clipped breathing and tight chest from performance anxiety. I was scheduled to play the Chopin Nocturne in C-sharp minor in public for the first time, at a mid-morning service at my church.
Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp Minor is a signature piece of my piano teacher, Stephen Wu. At his wedding reception at the Montclair Art Museum earlier this year, the lights dimmed as Stephen sat down at the mahogany Steinway, where he played a piece of his own composition he had written for his new wife, Meredith.
Sometimes gripping something one wants out of life is an effective strategy. But in the case of Chopin’s C-sharp minor Nocturne, my determination resulted in a tensed hand, preventing me from playing these piano trills without sufficient fluidity or speed.