Lots of Surprises

An Essay By Lucy Anne // 6/27/2012

Piano exam 2012


Imagine your piano teacher informs you of the exact date you are to have your piano exam. Does your heart become stricken with dread as you foresee the enormous amount of practicing you will have to undergo? And do you dread just thinking about how much stress, anxiousness, and nervousness you will have as you play for a judge, who is a stranger, and will grade you as you play? If you don’t dread merely thinking of the aforesaid scenario, then you are deservedly entitled by me, a “Daniel” or an “Esther”. I, for one, am not an “Esther”.

Yearly, I take this piano exam named, “American Guild”.

This year, my program consisted of nine pieces with an additional ‘ear training’. The pieces in the program were Bach’s ‘Inventions’, Mozart’s ‘Concerto E Flat K271’, Bartok’s ‘Pe Loc’, Debussy’s ‘The Snow is Dancing’, Chopin’s ‘Waltz in E Flat Minor’, and finally, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Waltz of the Flowers’.

In my opinion, the most difficult piece was the Mozart Concerto. That piece required much memorizing because it had fifty-one pages divided up into three movements.

I always thought that a majority of piano judges were always strict and mean. I also thought them of people who just judge children for fun just to see how many of them played well. And if the child didn’t play well, then the judge would give the child a bad grade…without any sympathy for the child and how much time and work the child had to dedicate of his own precious time to prepare his program.

I practiced the piano daily. Months passed quickly and before I knew it, it was one month before the exam. About that time, my stress level increased and I doubted if I could finish in time. You see, it was only a month before the big day and I had only memorized 20 pages of the Mozart!

My friends willingly prayed for me as I shared what was happening.

Also, I didn’t have all day to practice. School was mandatory. Moreover, my problems didn’t stop at the Mozart. I had eight other songs to worry about too! Three pages from the Chopin Waltz were yet to be memorized, the Debussy needed to be learned, and the other pieces needed perfection.

Every day, I debated on which pieces to practice. It was either one or the other. The Mozart itself took forty-five minutes to play it once. By the time the forty-five minutes passed, I would be exhausted. My back would ache from sitting so still without support. It would take my remaining strength to play the other songs. In reality, I would practice the remaining eight pieces one day, and then the next day, I would practice the Mozart.

Yet my friends continued to pray.

Finally, two weeks before the exam, I called up my piano teacher saying, “I don’t think I can memorize the third movement of the Mozart Concerto before the exam. I already finished memorizing the first movement. For the second movement, I have only five more pages to memorize. So may I replace the third movement with something else…say, a Bartok?”

To my relief, he assured me that it was a wonderful idea.

So I joyfully replaced the third Mozart movement with a Bartok—which was only one and a half page.

When the final week arrived, I barely worked on my schoolwork. This would be my daily cycle: I would awake. After breakfast, I would hurriedly rush downstairs to the piano and play for an hour or two. Then I would work on school until dinnertime. After dinner, I would practice again for an hour more.

During those last few weeks, my back ceased aching. I reckoned that I had already gotten used to playing for such a long time.

For inspiration, I would open the piano cover and I would observe how the piano worked. What great fun! I found that by opening the cover, it made it easier, if played properly, to produce a crisper and sharper sound. And I found that by closing the cover, it made the music seem muffled.

During that final week, I begged my mom, “Mommy, could we please go to Auntie Linda’s house to practice on her grand piano? Please?”

“We’ll see,” I found to be one of every moms’ favorite sayings.

However, she set a time for me to practice on the grand piano. That frees some of my worries because in the exam, they make sure that there is a grand piano there so you may play on it and I was worried if I could play well enough on a grand piano due to its heavier keys compared to an upright piano.

The dreaded day crept closer and closer until it was one day before it—Monday. That afternoon, I had a piano lesson. After hearing me, my piano teacher, Michael, advised me to refrain from practicing again a few pieces before the exam for fear of over-practicing. One of the pieces he advised against playing again was the Mozart Concerto.

The following day, I cut my usual of late three hour practice to an hour. Lunchtime arrived and I had no appetite. Neither did my sister. But because our mom insisted, we ate…a little. After I ate, I raced to the computer to listen to my pieces but played by professionals. I listened intently, trying to find ways to improve my playing.

The music (which was Mozart) was playing beautifully when suddenly; I froze in horror! I had forgotten to practice one of my weakest spots in that piece! I rushed to the piano frantically and attempted to correct my mistakes in the last five minutes before we had to leave.

At our arrival, we were introduced to the judge, Andrew. He was the type of person who puts you at ease.

Rachel decided to play first so I dutifully went second. With each note in the first song, I was slightly hesitant to play the next note; I feared that I would make a mistake. But my anxiety was a waste for I performed that piece perfectly.

After the last note died away, it was very still.

I turned around to face the judge. His face mirrored disbelief. Suddenly, he exclaimed, “Excellent!” He shook his head and pursed his lips in what appeared to be incredulity. “That was simply, excellent!”

His praise threw me off-guard.

What type of judge is this—telling me so profusely how well he thought I played?

But nevertheless, we reached to my most important and difficult piece—the Mozart Concerto.

“Ahh…” he commented, “We have some advanced stuff here!”

I grimaced.

I was getting more and more nervous by the minute. And that was how I began to play the Mozart…nervous.

Eight pages out of the twenty-nine pages I played well, but not as well as I have played once. I was about to play the ninth page when disaster struck.

You see, the Mozart is full of repeats but always, the second time it would repeat, it would be played in a different key. When the music would be repeated, it would always lead to a different middle and ending.

Thus, as I began to play in a different key, I suddenly realized that something wasn’t right! But sadly, although I had realized this, I continued playing—though very slowly and very uncertainly. Then I discovered what was wrong. I was merely playing the last eight pages again! Comprehending this, despite my pride, I stopped playing. I fumbled around keys; trying to figure out what key I was supposed to play. At this point, I no longer cared if I failed this exam or not. I just needed to find this key! Not only that but I could hear the song in my head tormenting me!

“Someone is not praying for me…” I thought.

“Help me, Lord!” I whispered over and over again.

I played around the keys for what seemed like hours, but was actually minutes.

Suddenly, I came with an inspiration to start again from the fourth page. So I did and I successfully flowed past the area I was struggling with earlier. But my joy was quenched quickly when disaster struck again. As I crossed my right hand over my left hand, my mind just emptied out and I instantly lost my spot.

At that point, the judge stopped me. “Okay, we should stop now. Let’s move onto the next movement, but first, please play the scale and cadence that goes with that piece.”

Mortification and shame flamed my cheeks. My hands quaked as I played the scales. I became stunned by a thought: The second movement is even worse than the first movement. Now he’s going to hear all of the second movement! Oh no!

However, I played the second movement without any major memory issues.

Once again, after the last note died away, the judge gave me his opinion on the piece. To summarize his lecture is this:

“This is a very difficult piece. But you have such an excellent touch and feeling for Mozart. Now, this is a in-progress work. But in a few months, I am sure you should be able to play better.”

I knew what he said was right. The Mozart was, after all, in-progress. But I couldn’t understand what made me play so badly. I had been playing it really well the last few days…but I assume that because I was nervous and not used to the piano, those two factors made me play it that way.

I will not describe in detail on how the remaining eight pieces went but they all went well.

Delightedly, the Chopin Waltz was fabulous! I played it the best I had ever played by memory and for an audience.

After the exam was over, the judge asked, “You’re only thirteen?”

“Yes, I am thirteen.”

“I’m amazed!”

He led me back to where my mom and sisters were waiting and then he went back into the room to finish writing up the report card.

The report card consisted of forty-three different techniques. Some of the techniques that were listed are—accuracy, correct notes, maturity in memory, singing tone, avoidance in blurs, etc.

If the judge thought you played so many correct notes that it was more than satisfactory, then the judge would mark the ‘C’ section (‘C’ standing for commendation) for correct notes. If the judge thought you played too many wrong notes, then the judge would mark the ‘A’ section (‘A’ standing for attention).The judge will do the same thing for singing tone as well. Now let’s say ‘avoidance of blurs’ were left blank in both ‘C’ and ‘A’ section. That simply means that your ‘avoidance in blurs’ was ‘satisfactory for age, ability, and time studied’ not that you didn’t it.

Now let’s try a different scenario. Let’s say you received all forty-three ‘C’s. Does that mean your score is 100%? No. If you gained all forty-three ‘C’s, it only means that you received forty-three of the possible techniques you could earn.

“I think I’m going to get less than 30 ‘C’s. Last year, I got thirty ‘C’s but I messed up so much on the Mozart that I think I’ll get even less this year,” I told my mom.

At last, the judge walked in. He told my mom,” You should be proud of your daughters. About Megan, Megan’s posture is simply excellent! The way she plays the piano; she is like gliding her hands across the keys! Also, her pieces are very difficult and she has played them well. But this—“he took out the Mozart Concerto, “is in-progress work. She still has some work to do with this. But keep up the excellent work! ”

Then he handed me my precious report card, shook hands, and walked out of the room. Slowly, I opened my report card. My eyes trailed to the bottom of the card which pronounced the score. I gasped. I had forty-one ‘C’s!

“Oh my! Oh my! I got forty-one ‘C’s, mommy!”

I couldn’t believe my eyes! Every single ‘C’ was check-marked except two!

And not only that, I had only six ‘A’s! That was one of the lowest amount of ‘A’s I had received in a long, long time.

I was so jubilantly thrilled that I immediately called my piano teacher.

“Praise God!” Uncle Michael said after I related my score and all that the judge had said.

So that brings us to the end of this year long journey.

This year, my pieces have become almost a part of me. Although many of my pieces have caused me pain and frustration, I am reluctant to part. The Chopin Waltz is one of my favorite songs this year. When I am sad, it sets me into a happier mood because of its liveliness. Or when I am happy, the Chopin makes me want to dance.

But here, I stand amazed on how much I have experienced and changed this year in terms of my musical experience.

This year’s road has not always been smooth. There have been plenty of bittersweet moments. But I plan to store them all—bitter or sweet, into my heart.

Just last week, my piano teacher said that I could leave all my pieces and he gave me different pieces to pick from. Although I am relatively sad to part with what has become part of me, I wonder what will next year hold? Lots of surprises, without any doubt.

****** Any PASSIVENESS? Any humor you spotted? Where did my humor, if any, fall flat? Grammar mistakes? IS THIS BORING?! Please give me a rating from 1-5. I am not interested in overly sugary and artificial chocolate cupcakes. Any place you don't like? Any ways I should improve? Did I connect with the reader? TELL ME EVERYTHING!!



Overall, this was a very good and interesting piece. I don't have the time to go over it again, looking for grammatical errors (but none stood out to me). You built tension very well, drawing the reader ahead to see what was next - but I think you drew it out a little too long. There are places you could cut parts out, or say things more succinctly.
Other than that, my only comment is your use of -ly words. They're often redundant, awkward, and/or you'd be better off using more description in other ways. I'm sure you've heard, "show, don't tell." It's taken me years and years to get used to using fewer -ly words (and it's an ongoing process!). It's a habit I picked up writing essays where they were required and I'd throw them in because I had to have them and often they didn't fit well. It's less of a problem in essay writing than it is in creative writing, but I still think it's something that for the most part can and should be avoided, and it will make your writing clearer.

Good work on your piano exam, by the way! :)

Kyleigh | Thu, 07/05/2012

Thank you so much for

Thank you so much for reviewing, Kyleigh! This is the first time a writer on AP gave me this type of criticism...which I have been wanting to receive since I applied to write here!

I know it is rather long...but I didn't build the tension on purpose so I wouldn't know how to draw it out a little faster. Yes, I have already cut many parts out. I am going to edit this piece, but the edited version will probably not show up on AP.

Are my -ly words like "delightedly" , "willingly" , "hurriedly" etc? It turns out whenever I try to say things in the least amount of words as possible, it becomes passive, or even worse! So how would I avoid using those words? Or how did you do it?

Thanks again! :)

Lucy Anne | Fri, 07/06/2012

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson


Yes - those -ly words. Instead of saying "delightedly," you could write how you had a smile on your face, or instead of "hungrily" show how the subject was gulping down his lunch as if he hadn't eaten for days. It is more words, but is more vivid.
Does that make sense?

Kyleigh | Fri, 07/06/2012

This was very interesting

I am no Grammatician (though I am a grammar Nazi), but I can tell you that your essay was captivating. It was interesting all the way through. I didn't catch the many -ly's, until Kyleigh pointed it out, and I read it through again, and have to agree. I do know this much, though, that the shortest way isn't always the best way. Shorter can be better, but not at all times.
I hope that this comment is constructive, and helpful. This is a great essay, better than anything that I could write.

Arthur | Sat, 07/07/2012

"My greatest wish for my writing is that it would point you to the Savior."

Kyleigh: Yes, it makes much

Kyleigh: Yes, it makes much sense! Thanks! :)

Arthur: Thank you for reviewing as well! I am going to try to "show rather than tell" in my writing. :)

Lucy Anne | Sat, 07/07/2012

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hey, I'm a little late, I know!

This was pretty good: The first paragraph was a very catching one; it wanted me to read on. During the middle was a bit to long; but I did really like the bit where you described what you were feeling during the exam. I have been doing piano for a little over a year now; I haven't done any exams yet but twice a year my teacher holds a recital for all her students to play something.
I remember I was soooooo nervous! The first one I had only been playing for 2 terms, and only had something simple to play. I made some mistakes, but since it was a jazzy song, it wasn't at all noticeable.

Resolving to "show and not tell" is a very good idea. I try too, but I'm not sure if I'm doing it much unless someone points it out to me. If you ever come and read my writings, please tell me if I'm doing it!

Over all, I think that it was a pretty good essay, and you did a good job. Well done. :)

Maddi | Mon, 07/09/2012

Goodbye? Oh no, please. Can’t we just go back to page one and start all over again?” – Winnie The Pooh

Megan! :) I commented already

Megan! :)
I commented already what I thought of the essay on your blog ;) I liked it and I'm glad you did good :)
Your friend,

Sarah Anne | Mon, 07/09/2012

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths

Go to my blog and follow it: Sarahanneandrews.wordpress.com
:) for my sake, follow

Maddi: Welcome! Welcome to

Maddi: Welcome! Welcome to apricotpie! I promise that you will absolutely love your time here.

Thank you, Maddi for telling me what you think! :)

Oh no, you are not late at all! :)

My piano teacher used to have recitals but recently things just haven't been working out. But I play piano for my friends and for my homeschool presentations fairly alot. :) I LOVE piano and when I am bored, playing on it just makes the boredness (is there such a word?) vanish! :)

ALL: Thank you for your thoughtful advice and encouraging compliments...you all greatly inspire me and I am thankful that God has led me to AP! :)

Lucy Anne | Mon, 07/09/2012

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson


Wow--you're far more advanced in piano than I originally thought. :D Congrats on your score. That's incredible!

This essay was quite good. Although it wasn't as fast-paced as your others, it was very informative and I found myself able to relate. I think I've mentioned briefly before that I play the piano, too. (Though definitely not as well as this--not even close!) :) Anyway, great job!

I had to do a contest, too, last March. It wasn't like this, though. But I was pleased. In the contest I was in, the judges graded you individually--I think I got supreme, which is the highest score you can get next to perfect. I was surprised, kind of like you were, because I had really messed up my hymn! LOL! I think I got a really nice teacher that day. ;) I lucked out.

I was nervous, too, like you. Though maybe not as much, but still. It was fun, though! Later, my teacher told me she was surprised with my score because I had gotten one of the more difficult judges in the contest. (I was like...whoo! Relief!)

I took about a year's break from piano last May, but I think I'm going to start up again this fall. :D It'll be fun to get back to it.

Your essay reminded me about why I love playing the piano. Good job!

-Homey :)

P.S. Sorry for my novel-length comment! ;)

Madeline | Sun, 07/15/2012

everything was better when/you would call and I'd be like/yeah babe, no way

Thank you so much.

Oh, I am sure you are play piano well too! :)

Your way of a piano contest sounds interesting. I am happy for you that you did well despite the difficult judge! [High-fives!] I too received the highest score--superior or something like that.

Thank you for reading and thank you for all of your nice comments; they are really encouraging! ;)

Lucy Anne | Sun, 07/15/2012

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here's a 5 - enjoy your cupcake!! :D

You make me want to play piano again! Maybe I will! - but NOT for examinations. Your writing is great, because it made me feel my experiences again!! My hands would be so sweaty... And a memory black-out is one of the worst things ever.
I'm listening to the Mozart right now (so many trills, haha)... I, like the judge, was definitely amazed when I saw you were 13 and had a list of pieces like that!! You are going to go far, without a doubt.

Sarah Bethany | Sat, 07/28/2012

Now listening to the Chopin -

- oh, wow!!

Sarah Bethany | Sat, 07/28/2012


Great essay - and great job playing!
It's not particularly funny, but I never thought it was corny. It's certainly not boring! Sometimes it did seem... excessively detailed, I suppose? Maybe I just think that because I'm somewhat familiar with the concepts, but I thought it could have been more concise. Cutting adverb-verb combinations into strong verbs might help with that.

Anna | Wed, 08/01/2012

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief


Sarah Bethany: Thanks so much for reviewing and your compliments! :) Thanks for the 5, too. ;) I am so glad this made you want to play piano again! :D And my hands were sweaty! :)

Anna: Thanks for your constructive criticism and the 4. :) I have been really working on being more concise and will try even harder! But could you please give me an example on how I could be more concise? For example, could you point out one spot which needs to be more concise and give me an example of how it could be improved? Thanks again! :)

Lucy Anne | Wed, 08/01/2012

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sure, returning the favor for Out of Time :)

All right, take this paragraph.

If the judge thought you played so many correct notes that it was more than satisfactory, then the judge would mark the ‘C’ section (‘C’ standing for commendation) for correct notes. If the judge thought you played too many wrong notes, then the judge would mark the ‘A’ section (‘A’ standing for attention).The judge will do the same thing for singing tone as well. Now let’s say ‘avoidance of blurs’ were left blank in both ‘C’ and ‘A’ section. That simply means that your ‘avoidance in blurs’ was ‘satisfactory for age, ability, and time studied’ not that you didn’t it.

It's not actually about musical terms, so I needed the explanation, but I thought there might be a better way to put it. Just as an example...

The judge uses C for commendation or A for attention. If you play enough correct notes to impress the judge, he marks the C section, but if you play too many wrong notes, he marks the A section. If he leaves both C and A blank, your performance is "satisfactory for age, ability, and time studied."

Also, I just noticed that you use a lot of exclamation points. They're mostly okay when someone is speaking (such as, "Excellent!"), but distracting in narration (such as, I froze in horror!).

Anna | Wed, 08/01/2012

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

Returning favor? It was no problem. :)

Ach, Anna, you are just so helpful. That was my most difficult paragraph to work out. And since you picked that one, I guess it shows. :) I had trouble figuring out on how I would be able to summarize how the scoring worked. You shortened it really well though I might have added something else as well, to let the reader know that playing well is not just about playing the correct notes. Thanks so much!

Really? Too much exclamation marks? I thought I didn't have that problem! But I agree that "I froze in horror!" is too overboard. I guess I will have to watch myself even more closely. ;)

Lucy Anne | Wed, 08/01/2012

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson