It was recital time, and my students had to complete a full rehearsal run of their segment in each lesson before we could proceed with newer material. Each had to perform their pieces from memory, and six year old Miss Lillian was no exception.
We had selected her recital piece weeks in advance. She was a bit of a ham and had been one of the first in the entire studio to sign up. Miss Lillian was preparing "The Rainbow Connection".
Since this was before the time of reliable YouTube streaming, I had a recital track made for her by one of the other faculty, who was an accomplished pianist. We could rehearse and perform with it for the sake of consistency, so Miss Lillian had no excuses for not practicing and no excuses for not having her music memorized. It took us well over a month to get her lyrics stored in her head, but at the last minute she finally got through it without any reminder cues.
The morning of the recital was now upon us, and before the show, I was tuning miniature violins and setting up a speaker to play the occasional performance track. Miss Lillian walked in with her dad. She was as cute as a button, dressed in her nicest Sunday-best with a bow in her mermaid red hair -- but she was pale as a ghost, clutching her sheet music for "The Rainbow Connection" in white-knuckled fists.
"Lillian is very anxious about remembering her lyrics," her dad whispered. "I know the policy is to have it memorized, but if she can't use the music, we might not get her on the stage."
I swallowed a smile and said, "Well ok then."
I walked to the wing on stage left and placed her music on a spare stand, making sure she knew where it was. I would act as the stage hand, I told her, and bring it out when it was time for her performance.
Lillian was scheduled to sing in the middle of the recital, to remove the pressures that come with having to go first or last. Watching the other students and their valiantly far-from-flawless presentations hadn't calmed her down one bit. When the emcee announced her name, she had to be guided to the stage.
I placed the music stand in front of her, and lowered it as far as it would go. Even still, the audience could only see Lillian from the nose up -- which is probably how she wanted it anyway. I line checked the performance track, then her rendition of "The Rainbow Connection" began.
Miss Lillian mumbled through the first verse, with knees knocking. Her voice couldn't be heard by even the first row, so I turned the volume down on the track. By the second verse, some color returned to her cheeks, and she began to enjoy herself a little. Surely this wasn't so bad...but she never once looked up from her music. By the time she made it to the bridge, we were all of us under [her] spell, [we knew] that it's probably magic! It was too cute!
How perfectly adorable that this little strawberry blonde soprano sang this gorgeous song the audience of parents remembered from their childhoods, with a little bow in her hair. Miss Lillian had a crystal clear, flute-like voice, and by the time she nailed the key change, there was not a dry eye in the house.
Her performance ended to rapturous applause, which stunned Miss Lillian out of her reverie. For the first time, she peeked at the crowd above her music stand. Her eyes grew wide and the color drained from her cheeks again. She completely froze.
"Lillian!" I whispered from backstage. "Don't forget to bow!"
She bent at the waist right where she stood, and head butted the music stand that had shielded her from stage fright with a loud "GONNNNNNGGGGGGG"!
Miss Lillian walked briskly off stage to her seat, through a chorus of muffled giggles from the audience.