Thank You AMSF
by Yasunari Ishi
Keynotes, March 2009
I had been taking piano lessons for about two years when I stumbled on the AMSF website by accident three years ago. It was as if I just stepped on a box of treasures. I couldn't stop reading about the organization.
I remember visiting an Encore Recital for the first time. I entered the church sanctuary where there were a handful of people testing the piano, unsure of whether I had come to the right place. I took my seat in the back. There were not many in the audience, mostly sitting up front. It was a rather quiet event, people taking turns to play, going straight to the piano without bowing or making a big gesture, and the applause after each performance was not loud but rather reserved. I sat there observing, feeling a little anxious and even nervous. The reception afterward was a bit more relaxing and friendly. So I decided to join.
I tried to sign up for a Cadenza Recital a few weeks later. It was already full but the coordinator kindly let me attend as an observer. This time, I had to knock on someone's door instead of just entering a church building, but a friendly face opened the door and welcomed me in. People were sitting back in a sofa much more relaxed than the Encore Recital and they all seemed to know one another. Being a shy person and probably the only stranger there, though, it was in a way almost too intimate and after the recital I thanked them for letting me come and left. I quickly learned that people with this organization were all very cordial, friendly, supporting and non-judgmental. I tried to attend each recital series once or twice a year--Encore, Cadenza, Intermezzo, etc.--and I quickly got used to the idea of visiting people's homes on a Sunday afternoon gathering around in the living room and playing on their beautiful piano.
Performing in front of people was another story, though. My heart would start pounding as soon as I entered the house or the church and wouldn't calm down until I'd finished playing. My hands would shake and sweat and my arm muscles would feel almost numb. My head would go blank and while I was playing I felt like I was walking above the ground, not on the ground, without any control whatsoever.
Over the course of the three years, I've participated regularly despite the discouraging nervousness, mistakes, and memory lapses, not only in the recital series but also in the Outreach activities. Thanks to the support and encouragement I've received from all the people, performing has become less stressful, and even though I still get the same symptoms, I am not as panicky as before and as a result, my playing is a little more under control. Even though I was a relatively new member, I've been offered the opportunity to serve in the board as the Treasurer. It has been a humbling experience, being surrounded by long-time active members who have dedicated a lot of time and effort to this organization for many years, but I've felt so welcomed and accepted. During almost nine years of living in the DC area, I had almost given up making new friends and acquaintances, but I think AMSF also saved me from that misery.
I am sad to leave the area, but AMSF has, in a strange way, become almost like a "second home" for me that I could come back to from time to time. I am very thankful to people who open up their homes to host the AMSF events. It has become my dream to host such Sunday afternoon musical events myself, and it is likely to come true, as my new home here in Vermont, a Victorian bed and breakfast called Maplecroft, has plenty of room to place a grand piano and for people to sit in sofa and chairs in the living room. I hope many of you will come and visit. Thank you, AMSF.
AMSF publishes Keynotes, a quarterly newsletter containing articles that educate, that explore issues of technique, performance, and practice, and that inform readers about the AMSF organization and its members. Click here for more Keynotes articles.