It was my junior year of high school, and the Regional Solo and Ensemble competition was approaching. My private lesson teacher selected a Saint-Saëns solo for me to follow the previous year’s performance of “Le Cygne,” which granted me the opportunity to go to the state competition.
This piece, Allegro Appassionato, however, was far more challenging and complex than “The Swan.” In my mind, I had mastered the new piece. Though, there was a section about two-thirds through the piece which gave me some difficulty. It required playing two notes at once, on two different strings while shifting positions. I practiced enough that the muscles in my fingers, hand, and wrist knew where to be and when.
I played through Allegro Appassionato for my teacher and felt pretty secure with the performance. My teacher assured me that I had mastered the notes and bowings, but it was missing a key element: emotion. The majority of the piece was playful, a fairly easy emotion to portray, but that tricky section with the double stops hid an under-lying emotion I was not comfortable with: anger.
My teacher looked at me and said, “Erin, I’m sorry, but I don’t think you can do it.” If you know me well, you know that if I am really angry, my first physical reaction is to cry. Tears began to blur my vision. I began to play a few measures before the dreaded section and let my emotions grow and release, matching the notes, rhythms, and dynamics on the page. I finished with three resounding chords. I looked over to my teacher. She smiled, and said, “there you go.”