Luke Kottemann: The Violin Recital

A memoir-essay by Luke Kotteman about the ups and downs of a memorable  violin recital. 

I shifted in my seat. The chair was incredibly uncomfortable. The back of it had three wooden bars, each one digging into the muscles of my back. Not only did the chair make me uneasy, but this God-forsaken suit was insufferable. “I thought this was supposed to be my size,” I grumbled to myself. I tried plucking at my violin to get my mind off my aching back. It didn’t help. I moved around in my seat a little, trying to relieve my armpits, which were burning with pain from my suit. I remembered complaining to my mother that this suit was too small. “But it’s the only one you have,” she had replied, “and you need to look nice for your first recital.”

Thinking of that put me a little on edge. Ugh. This is my first recital, I should probably practice… My leg started to shake, but I forced it to stop. Am I really good enough? This is only my first year, everyone else has been here since they were three! I thought worriedly. No, it’s ok, I’ve had previous teachers before, I reassured myself, pulling my shirt down, briefly relieving my armpits. Just because they aren’t as good as the ones here at Preucil, doesn’t mean that I can’t be as good as everyone else. I continued to pluck at my violin, hoping that I could achieve perfection from practicing twenty minutes before I had to play. I tried fixing some of the obvious problems, something I should have been doing weeks ago. I practiced and practiced, hoping to avoid future embarrassment.

Then things got worse. The most gorgeous girl sat next to me. Oh no.

“Hey, I’m Stephanie,” she said pleasantly.

“Hi, I’m Luke,” I responded, blushing red as a fire truck.

“I like your violin, it looks very professional,”

“Thanks,” I said nervously. My leg started to shake. I went back to practicing my violin. Ignore the angel, I scolded myself. Practice your violin. I plucked and plucked, trying to stay focused. I should talk to her, I thought, looking at her curly brown hair falling over her shoulders. No. I shook my head to get back on track. Practice your violin. Talk to her once this is all over. I started to pluck again, but my hands had begun to sweat profusely. I wiped the sweat onto my pant leg. I began to play my violin again, but my hands kept slipping from the neck of the instrument. The sweat greased it so that it was nearly impossible to play.

A teacher appeared on the stage. “Thank you, everyone, for coming,” she announced. “If you will all please take your seat, the recital is ready to begin.”

I watched as a cello student strode up to the stage. He sat tall in his chair. He glanced at the accompanist and without hesitation gave the cue to begin his concerto. I wish I could have as much confidence as he does, I thought. He performed his piece perfectly. He had great vibrato and incredible tone quality. He finished and took a bow. The next student skipped up to the stage and performed. She’s just as good as the boy in front of her, I quietly uttered as I sat in awe.  Why was I put into this group of musicians? Everyone here knew what they were doing. I certainly didn’t.

The person ahead of me got up to play. He was a young kid, maybe 8. He sat down and played the piano. It was as though Beethoven himself was performing. I felt sweat beads dripping down my forehead, and my leg was still shaking uncontrollably. Oh no, why do I have to follow that kid? He finished his performance, there was applause and he took a very formal bow. Now it was my turn. I shuffled my feet and begrudgingly climbed the stairs. I walked on stage. There was brief applause that quickly faded into silence. I walked forward, holding my shoulders straight, and standing tall. I hope no one can tell how nervous I really am. I surveyed the audience. There was a myriad of blank faces, staring at me, waiting for me to play. I set my violin on my shoulder, and placed the bow on the string. I let out a final sigh and pulled my bow across the strings.

I never recalled having played this well before. Somehow my fingers were moving quickly and accurately. They didn’t fumble! Mr. Vivaldi would be proud of me for playing his piece as well as I did that night. As I played, I felt as if a thousand pounds had been lifted from my shoulders, the nervousness drained from my body. I lifted my bow, releasing the final note to echo throughout the auditorium. There was a brief moment of silence that was interrupted by the sound of a happy audience. I bowed and left the stage.

I inched my way through my row to get to my seat. I saw Stephanie. “Good job!” She whispered, and gave a beautiful smile.

“Thanks,” I whispered, trying to give a charming smile back. “Good luck,” I said as she got up to go perform.

I sat and listened.

I glanced down at my pants. There was a little hair on the knee of my pant leg. I brushed it with my hand. The hair slowly floated to the ground like a feather. I looked at my violin, studying the grain in the wood. I lifted it from my legs to look at the back of it, and then I noticed.

My fly was down.

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