“My palms were sweating. My head was shaking as I walked into the room. I was holding my violin in my hand and my bow in the other. I knew I had to make this perfect. It was my one shot.”
My palms were sweating. My head was shaking as I walked into the room. I was holding my violin in my hand and my bow in the other. I knew I had to make this perfect. It was my one shot. The camera was on, the lights were blazing, and the piano was loud and clear. I sniffed and played my first note with absolute confidence. My fingers swirled down the neck of the violin, pressing on the metal strings. I focused on my vibrato (the vibration created by my fingers) and tried to make it as loud and clear as possible, while trying to make it as smooth as possible. Three minutes went by, and I played my last note and made it echo across the room. I walked off the stage.
Now I could only wait to see my fate.
Let me explain what was going on. I was signed up for a competition where if I won first place, I got to perform at Royal Albert Hall in London. If I won second place, I got to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York. If I won third, I didn’t get anything. I waited for three days until my mom came with the letter. I took a huge deep breath and opened the letter.
Dear Andre Tsou,
Congratulations you have won 1st prize in the Grand Virtuoso Competition!
I was so excited that I couldn’t even contain myself! I was, as British people would say, “full of beans.” But then came the long, long, wait.
Three weeks later, I was packing clothes, dress shoes, belts, hair gel, and of course, my violin. I was headed for London.
As we got to JFK airport, we realized that there was a huge traffic jam. We thought nothing of it because JFK always had some sort of traffic jam. But after thirty minutes, we rolled up to a police officer and asked him what happened. He told us someone thought he or she heard a gunshot, and the airport was shut down. Two hours later, we were in the airport, but it was not over yet. There was a person at a gate telling people that some flights would be cancelled.
I was so nervous. Would the biggest moment of my life be cancelled because some idiot thought someone shot a gun? Sweat ran down my head. I was biting my nails, and the person announced, “Flights to be cancelled: All flights to China, France, Argentina, Sweden, and Saudi Arabia will be cancelled.” London was not announced. I was so relieved. The best part was the majority of people had their flights cancelled, so the lines were short. We got onto our flight in about twenty minutes, and as soon as I sat down on the seat, I looked at my brother. I looked at my TV, and then I passed out.
When I woke up, I looked around, and I suddenly realized that everyone except my family was getting their luggage. My mom was sound asleep, my brother was in another world, my grandma was snoring, and I was barely awake. I shook my mom and my brother up, and we went on our way to London. Once we got a taxi, we checked out our hotel and relaxed. The next morning, we went out for some breakfast. I ordered toffee and some fish and chips. After breakfast, we went back to our hotel and decided where we wanted to go next. We decided to go to the dungeon. That’s where prisoners of war were tortured and killed. We went on a ride there. There were zombies and headless people inside a dark tunnel. When I got out, I was traumatized for about thirty minutes. We didn’t do much else in London until one day, we went to Hyde Park where there was a carnival. I had such a good time there. It felt like I was in heaven… until my mom told me that I had to get ready for my rehearsal with my pianist.
When we got there, we found out our original pianist got injured, and they found a different pianist who also got injured on the same day! So we waited for an hour and a half for a pianist who did not even know my piece! He ended up having to sight read and learn my piece during my rehearsal. I was very worried about the next day.
I woke up feeling numb all over. There was a deathly silence that was so quiet, but so loud. I got changed and made myself some ramen. When my mom, grandma, and brother woke up, they were immediately fussing with things like “you better look sharp” or “don’t mess up!” I wished I had not woken up. After breakfast, I was sent to go change, put on hair gel, put on my belt, and put on dress shoes. Then I went to practice my piece. After all that, we were outside and on our way. The walk was thirty minutes long! My hair and my body language weren’t so sharp anymore when we got there, but, boy, was it when I saw the huge building! As we got inside, we were escorted by guards to the hall. I was so excited. The excitement lasted for about five minutes until I realized we were performing in a small reception room that had a velvet red wall covering, a sink in the corner, and a small stage. So much for a violin competition…
First, there was a rehearsal. What I was wondering was why were they making everyone perform if all the parents were sitting there. Wouldn’t that be it? Okay, everyone you heard what you had to hear, so yup, goodbye! But no. When I went on, people were all on their phones — so much for my self-esteem. I was cruising right along with my piece, until my pianist stopped. He had fumbled. There was complete silence except for the sound of my violin. I was so nervous, but I carried on. Then he suddenly found his part, and we were right along, cruising again.
Once I had finished, I sat down next to my mom and took a deep breath. The concert was about to begin. I was number fifteen on the program, and I felt more and more nervous every time a person finished. But then the host announced that I would be switched to number ten because our pianist had to leave. I was literally going crazy! My mind was not prepared for this. I was trying to mentally prepare myself when the announcer said “Next, Andre TsAAo.” Yeah, of course she pronounced my name wrong. People these days. I mean, I spend hundreds of dollars to go into your completely unorganized competition and had to fly all the way here with a pianist who didn’t know my piece, and YOU COULDN’T EVEN FIGURE OUT HOW TO PRONOUNCE MY NAME?! I mean, DUDE! Come on! But those last five steps would decide my fate after all of this work.
As my pianist was playing his intro, I was thinking, Pianist, please don’t mess up. Please, and Andre, don’t mess up either. Then it was my moment to shine. I played my first note. I didn’t mess up, but I stumbled a little bit. The piece was doing okay, and I was strolling. Until my pianist started to rush! I was frightened and started playing faster too! My knees were buckling, my fingers were becoming tense, when suddenly my pianist slowed down. I was also caught by surprise on that one, but I was glad to be in rhythm again. As I kept playing, I started to get really self concious about my surroundings. A baby started wailing, kids were playing on their phones, laughing quietly. It also didn’t help that their mothers were talking to them. Then I switched onto the final three lines The music was ringing in my ears, my mind was racing, my knees almost buckled, but I felt comfortable where I was. The momentum building up, my pianist playing louder, I played my last chord and shot my bow across the strings, and the sound echoed more than it ever did before. I was done.
When I finally was ready to go back home, I felt like I was floating. My legs were numb and light all the way back. As I walked through my door, my mom hugged me. I felt so good. Then I remembered my audition, my mom yelling at me for not practicing. The blood, sweat, and tears were all worth it. I then realized that through all that, I was just an ordinary eleven-year-old kid.