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A Little Pianist

by Riko Maeda

          I started taking music lessons at the age of three and began taking piano lessons at the age  of five. My mother used to be a piano teacher, so music was always around me, and I naturally  started learning the piano and found myself falling in love with it. I participated in several  competitions and concerts during the year and got a lot of awards.  

          One of the most memorable  moments was when I was seven years old, when I entered a competition for an original piece of  music. I participated in the competition with a piece called “Variations on the Shining Sea,”  which I composed on the theme of the shimmering sea seen from a cruise ship on a family vacation. I was chosen as a representative and was selected people from all over the country would gather to perform. TV stations came to the concert hall, there were cameras and a lot of  equipment I had never seen before on stage, and the lighting was full-blown and large-scale.   

          During rehearsals, they checked my standing position and corrected my bowing style, which was  completely different from the small concerts I had attended before. More than one thousand people filled  the hall during the opening of the show, and relatives and friends came one after another  with bouquets of flowers and gifts. My long hair was put up, I wore new white shoes, and my  dress, tailored to match the piano, was sleeveless and blue as the ocean with spangles all over.  

          I  sat backstage, holding a handkerchief to catch my sweat, waiting for my turn to come. That is when I was the most nervous. I wanted to hear what the person in front of me was playing, but I was too nervous to get it into my head. Finally, my song title and name were introduced, and my comments were read. I walked to the piano on stage. I sat down on a chair, adjusted the hem of  my dress, straightened my back, and took a deep breath. Once I started playing, I concentrated  my ears on the sound I was making and did my best to express the shining ocean.  

          For this moment, I practiced as much as time allowed. I practiced until I could make the tone I wanted, examine each note so that the listener could hear the image. I loved the playing the piano, where I could  express my heart with my fingertips, and I could feel the joy when I could produce the  exact sound I wanted.

          Growing up, I was a very shy child who was not good at sharing my  opinions with others. I was not good at talking. I never spoke up and kept a low profile.  However, piano was different. There was a world where I could express myself. The little pianist on stage was a fine performer in front of a large audience. The little pianist was met with the  loudest applause I have ever heard and then proudly walked off the stage. But my least favorite part of the interview was waiting. There was another shy, poorly spoken girl, answering the interview questions in a small, faltering voice.

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