If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you probably know I was in Italy a few weeks ago. I went to participate in the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival which is a program for young artists seeking to further their careers. The festival was amazing and my time there was packed with adventure, exploration, and growth. What impacted me most in my time there, though, was an encounter I had with the most unsuspecting subject—Raphael.
Raphael was the old Italian man who locked up the school we practiced at. Our ritual was such: he would knock on my door every evening to let me know it was time to leave. I’d coyly bargain for more time. He’d refuse. I’d pack up and leave.
About a week into my time there, I had a practice session that changed everything. Let me try and explain with an example most people can directly relate to: imagine for a second what it feels like to see somebody you love dearly after having spent considerable time apart from them. You are first happy simply to be reunited. Soon, though, you can’t help but notice and appreciate those things which you had never noticed in them before. Your love for them can no longer be just as it was—it is compulsed to go deeper. This was how I felt that day about Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantaisie.
When he knocked on my door that day, I couldn’t help but ask if I could play for him. He seemed a bit surprised by my request and checked to make sure he had understood me correctly. When I had confirmed, he nodded with a smile and sat down. I played. I wasn’t thinking of getting all of the notes or impressing him—simply of showing him what I had found.
After, I turned to look at him. With a warm smile on his face, he let the silence grow. Then, in Italian, he said, “I have deeply enjoyed this. Nobody here has asked me to play before. Thank you.” Then, as I had all of the other days, I asked if I could stay longer. This time in an apologetic tone, he said it couldn’t be. I laughed and told him not to worry.
I felt amazing inside as I walked back to my hotel. For the first time, I hadn’t been thinking about whether or not I'd hit all of the right notes or play ’the right way.’ I was simply showing him what I loved. For so long, I had lacked the courage to move beyon my fear of rejection and need for approval. In that moment, though, I knew I would never cower to it again.
The next few days, I found myself haunted by the second half of Raphael’s comment. How could it be that nobody had asked to play for him? It really really bothered me. Eventually, I realized that I was just as guilty.
I had been lulled into believing that I wouldn’t be able to actually share music until I had reached a certain level of knowledge and success. I was willing to drive myself half insane practicing ungodly hours in the hopes that I’d some day get the chance to perform for thousands of people. All so that I could be ‘good enough’ to share music. Put so bluntly, it sounds ridiculous. Yet, we buy it. Not just musicians—we all buy into it. We begin to believe that we won’t be able to make an impact until we are given a stage. Why? I’m not sure. What I do know is that I refuse to allow this lie to rob me of my opportunity to share music ever again.
So, in conclusion: I may never see Raphael again, but boy do I love him.
To those who read, I appreciate you more than you know. If this got you thinking, hit me with a comment. Theres more in these ideas to explore. What do you think?
Much love, JG