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Lessons From a Performance of the C Major Scale

Every artistic endeavor is worthy of being witnessed.  


When is art ready to be shared publicly?


Must it reach an advanced level first, or is there validity in sharing one's art with others regardless of skill level?  Is it “safe” for me to share my art with others, even if I’m not “the best" at my given medium?  


As a pianist, writer, and poet, I've often asked myself these questions, wondering if my latest project is good enough to share publicly, especially right before posting it online. As a mother and teacher, I encourage my children and students that doing their best is sufficient for sharing their creations. Yet, when the double wave of self-doubt and self-criticism floods my nervous system, I find it challenging to confidently click "post." 


I don't think I'm alone.  


It's as if, somehow, once we enter the adult world, we think there is a universal quality control barometer giving our work a pass/fail grade before our art is deemed presentable to the public.  


One day, as my finger, once again hovered over my mouse button in hesitation, a memory from my childhood permanently shifted my perspective and permitted me to share my art without fear.


Image of a laptop with a woman's hand hovering over a mouse

A Memorable Performance


The piano teacher of my youth required each of her piano students to participate in a local community-wide music club sponsored by the National Federation of Music Clubs. We gathered once a month on Saturday mornings in the basement of a Methodist church in the Grandin Court area of Roanoke, VA. We sang hymns, talked about music, had guest performers and instructors, and performed music for one another. It was a great opportunity to learn leadership skills, once I was old enough to hold office, gain exposure to other musical ideas, meet pianists from other piano studios, and practice performing for others. 


Of the nine years I attended, one performance in particular still stands out to me. It was the performance of a young student, who I think was about seven years old at the time. Now I know you might think I am going to describe the performance of a piano prodigy with that kind of intro. But that’s not where this story is going. 


She hadn’t been playing the piano very long, perhaps only a few weeks. Yet there she was attending this junior music club with the opportunity to perform for the first time. Can you guess what she performed? Mary Had a Little Lamb, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, or some other beginner piece?  


Nope!


She performed the C Major scale in one octave with only her right hand – eight notes ascending and descending. That was it.


At the time, I remember thinking it was odd that her teacher would have her perform a C Major Scale. 


But now, as a piano teacher and an advocate for adult hobby musicians, I see tremendous value in her performance on a slightly out-of-tune piano in front of an audience sitting on cold folding metal chairs.  


This young student, from the very beginning of her musical journey, was gaining experience performing. Not only that, she was sharing her love of music, skills, abilities, and hard work in front of an audience without any threshold for entry into the music club other than her willing presence. 


And you know what? She performed that C Major scale with poise, confidence, and pride. She was too young to know of the Vladimir Horowitzes or Glen Goulds of the world. She just knew what she had learned so far and was eager to share it with her available audience.  


Image of a watercolor painting of a girl playing the piano with text overlay reading "Lessons From a Performance of the C Major Scale."

Lessons from a Performance of the C Major Scale


As I remembered this experience, I felt my body let go of its previously bottled-up tension.


“That's right,” I thought. “We don't have to be the best or most advanced at everything we do before we share our art and ideas with others. All we have to do is love what we do and share it confidently with our available audience.” 


Unlike the roller coaster rides that say, “Must be this tall to ride.” Art has no limits. It's available and accessible to all who can create it and feel it at any level of execution. 


After reliving this experience I told myself; 


Every artistic endeavor is worthy of being witnessed.  


Defining Terms


Now for a few definitions:


I used the term “artistic endeavor” in a very broad sense of the word. I see art in everything– from traditional forms of still, written, and performing arts, to entrepreneurship, engineering, and community building (and so much more). Wherever creativity resides art can be found.  


I chose the word “witnessing” to refer to the act of seeing in an embodied way. This includes the physical acts of listening to a piece of music performed or a poem recited or watching a ballet being danced and observing art. But in its truer sense, for one to witness something means for that person to make a meaningful human connection with the material and the artist who manipulated the material.


Finally, the word “every” means just that – every; all without exception. 


With those definitions in mind, re-read this statement: Every artistic endeavor is worthy of being witnessed.  

White image with black text reading "Every artistic endeavor is worthy of being witnessed."

Applying This Truth


This truth is easier believed for others than internalized for oneself. Simply typing these words gives my artistic heart pause while my teacher's heart expands.  


I know well the internal struggle to believe these words to be true AND to live them out for myself. Perhaps you are there with me in the struggle.


If so, let's take this lesson from the performance of the C Major Scale performed by that seven-year-old girl with us. 


Whatever it is you have to offer to the world, don't shrink back. Don't hide it. Don't wait until you have arrived at some arbitrary level of expertise that you think you need to reach before it is deemed acceptable for you to share your work. Start sharing now.


As you begin to share, I guarantee you will grow in confidence, skill, boldness, and passion to continue to grow, which will encourage you to continue to share even more.  After all, little successes fuel future success.


Every artistic endeavor is worthy of being witnessed. — Yes, that means yours as well!


So, get out there and share YOUR C Major scale, whatever that may be, with confidence and boldness.


Oh….and my finger that resisted the button? I finally allowed it to “click.” 


Food for Thought:


Where is one area in your life where you have been shrinking back because you have labeled your efforts unworthy of being seen by others?


Envision what it would feel like to confidently and boldly share your unique beautiful self with others while continuing to learn and grow.  


(Hint: We all are still learning and growing in our art – including those best at their crafts! Even some of the masters still fight performance anxiety!)


Give it a try. Where can you allow yourself to be seen in your craft today? If you're a baker, can you bake and share a cake with them? If you're an artist, can you make a card for somebody?  If you are a musician, can you record your music and send it to a friend who needs a little encouragement? If you dance, can you dance with others in the room with joyful expression? If you write, can you share one of your essays, poems, or chapters with someone?


Be gentle with yourself and wise about who you take this step with. Share your gifts with those whom you know will receive them with a tender and open heart.


 

If you are looking for additional support and encouragement in your musical journey, check out Notes to Self: A Guided Mindful Practice Journal designed to bring mindfulness and celebration to your practice sessions. 


Are you an adult musician looking for community with other adults actively pursuing the skill of mastering an instrument?  If so, you are invited to join my Facebook Group, Notes to Self Musical Community: A Supportive Group for Adults. I hope to see you there!


To have these "Insights From The Piano Bench" essays land directly in your inbox, subscribe to my monthly blog digest newsletter. Let's explore what music can teach us about life together.



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