By Stefan Petrovic
I walk up the red carpet aisle of the church. At that moment in time, I finally understand what Einstein meant. Time feels like it is in slow motion as the eyes of all the people are watching me, an eleven-year-old kid, as I slowly make my way up to the grand piano on the stage. A thousand things race through my mind in those few seconds, including the possible hundreds of mistakes I could make in just three minutes. One step feels like 10 years, and the sound of that step echoes through every wall of the beautifully designed church. When I finally make it the hunk of black and white in front of me, and I sit down on the leather cushioned seat, everything in my mind goes blank. All I hear is the silence around me. All I see is my hands in front of me. All I feel is the blood rushing through me. All I experience is a world of bliss as I close my eyes and let my hands play the piano.
The day of the competition, I woke up and did the normal routine. I changed, ate, and brushed my teeth. I had a clean mind until I saw my piano in my room. It felt like a tool of stress to me. I could feel as though it pierced through me and made my heart stop. I was nervous. There were sheets of music all over the floor, and I saw that one piece on the small music stand on my piano. That was the piece. The piece that I knew I was going to win with. That music gave me a feeling that I was rejuvenated. I had never played that song incorrectly, and my teacher thought, compared to any other song, I was the best at it. It was a long four-page sheet with many fast notes and arpeggios. When I played this song, I felt my right hand move across the keys so quickly, it felt as though it was flying. My left hand playing low powerful chords that gave a beautiful harmonization grounding the overall piece. I looked at it one last time before I went downstairs ready to walk out the door knowing that there was no turning back.
I’m sitting in the front seat of my car with my dad driving and my mom in the back. We are all wearing elegant clothing, and my dad is playing classic punk rock on the radio while I sit there tapping my hand on my leg rapidly. Millions of thoughts race through my mind as I look outside the window and see many familiar landmarks. The closer we get, the more nervous I become. I decide to try and calm myself, but it seems like nothing will work. In what felt like less than 5 minutes, we were there. I feel as if time is playing tricks on my mind. I steadily get out of the car acting as though I am relaxed as we all walk to the entrance of the church.
The creaking of the large wooden door made me feel like I was in a horror movie. The humid air of the church instantly hit me in the face as I entered. The smell of candles filled the room and whispering all around made my ears tingle. I entered the main room and saw many other nervous twelve-year-olds with high hopes. Down the aisle, I was greeted by an aggressive, “Name?” by a woman who obviously didn’t enjoy taking attendance on a Saturday morning. I respond and am told to sit in the fifth pew to her right. I sit down and to the left of me is a girl who is going over fingering on her thigh, while on the right there was a rather chubby boy who was sweating profusely. I look straight ahead at the black piano in front of me, and it feels like the final boss of a video game. I look at my surroundings and all I see is myself, the pews, and the piano. I think to myself that there is no point in practicing at the last minute. All I knew was that I had to suck up all the useless feelings in the moment and pour everything into the piano.
Person after person walk up to the piano and play only to come either looking dissatisfied or satisfied, but everyone looked at the judge to see how much she was writing about their performance. Finally, the judge calls my name, and I feel my heart skip a beat. I walk up to the piano and sit down. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. The next thing I know I am playing the piece and my mind is blank as I let my fingers play through from muscle memory. I hear the thumps of the pedal as my foot presses the keys, and I feel the eyes of the judge pierce through me. I finish the piece with a loud strong note that resonates through the church. All the sound waves bounce off the wall as I sit there waiting for the right time to stand up. The silence is broken as I stand up to the clapping of everyone around the church. I return to my seat, my hands shaking as I wait for all the other performers to finish.
I remember walking out of that church with a big medal and certificate. I was ecstatic that I somehow won. I hadn’t actually listened to any other performances or the feedback from the judge, but instead, I listened to the white noise around me. When I heard my name, I was mostly shocked that I won my first gold medal. I found that this day brought up an important series of events that occurred in the future. I found that I loved the rush of being nervous and playing for hundreds of people. I don’t remember much else from that day, but I will always remember the sound of silence around the church that fateful day.