I had been putting this off for a very long time because performing terrifies me. But Stephen, my instructor, was patient, and this summer, I just couldn’t put it off any longer. The open mic at the Skylark Cafe was only a few blocks from home, and the barrier to entry was very low. Just sign your name on a clipboard at 8pm, and performances start at 9pm.
At this point, I had 23 songs in my oud repertoire, so there were plenty of songs to choose from. I chose three songs: Aziza, Chifteteli, and Nassam. We practiced these songs hard for about a month, to the point where I could play them with eyes closed. Stephen played the drum and we even simulated a noisy crowd using YouTube videos in the background.
I only invited 3 people to the performance. Somehow I preferred the idea of playing for mostly strangers. As the day approached, I was actually in a more stressful place in regard to riding my first STP (Seattle to Portland), so there wasn’t much time to fret about the performance. My biggest fear was making horrible mistakes in the music. Despite years of playing piano as a youth, I managed to slither out of all suggestions for recitals. This was probably a bad thing, as I never dealt with the fear until….now! I suppose making mistakes has always been my worst fear about performing, but I was somewhat heartened by the idea that most people at the show wouldn’t know how this music is supposed to sound at all, so would be unable to detect if I do make a mistake. And then I examined how I felt about the idea of other people making mistakes in their music. Surprise, I didn’t care! As long as the person’s passion for the music was intact, it doesn’t matter at all if it’s not “perfect.”
When we went on stage, I felt pretty relaxed, and was relieved when Stephen introduced us and the music.
It went well. I made so many mistakes, though, it’s hard for me not to focus on them. However, Stephen’s drumming was quite helpful, because as long as I was able to get “back on the train” of the rhythm, things would start to go smoothly again. People were cheering, so I know that the performance was well-received. The set was only about 10 minutes, which was plenty long for me.
One thing I noticed was that I felt most relaxed during the “taksim” portion of one of the songs. That’s the improvisational part. And that whenever I tried to look up from my instrument at the audience, I would immediately hit wrong notes! I’ll have to work on that aspect, as I feel it’s important for me to be able to look up and connect with the audience better.
All in all, I’m so glad I did it. But I don’t feel the urge to run out and perform again for a while.