On Being a Musician

When I was six or seven, I started piano lessons, and continued them up until I was 17. I taught piano periodically in that time, and graduated the Royal Conservatory with a Grade 8 Certificate of Music. I can read, write, and perform music, as well as sight read. I’m a little rusty – my piano is too big to move with me, unfortunately – but I still practice when I go anywhere with a piano, and I can still play and read. I also sing, not least successfully as a soprano in the chamber choir at my first university.

Now, growing up, though I enjoyed playing piano, I hated performing and practicing in front of people. Still do. Because of this, I didn’t (still don’t) practice as much as I should. It also gives my parents – namely my dad – the impression that I didn’t like it. For years, I was constantly reminded by him that when he was a kid, he’d take every opportunity to practice the drums or the cello, and that he’d had to talk his parents into buying him a drum kit, and they’d only let him play when they were out of the house. He’d not had the luxury of his parents’ approval like I did. I was given my upright at 12 years old, and requests for mini-concerts were pretty much constant. Because of all this, for a very long time, my dad told me that I was not a “real” musician. It wasn’t until a friend of his complimented my playing and pointed out how much passion I put into the music I was playing that he eased up on this insistence.

Even today, I hate having people listen to me play or sing – partially because I dislike performing, and partially because I’m scared people will see how much of a fraud I am. I’m not a real musician. I still don’t know what makes a “real” musician, of course. Is it passion? Skill? Is there a magic number you have to play until you get your “musician” card? I don’t know. What I do know is that every time I sit down to play, and I hear someone coming, I stop. I’m not a real musician, I’m not good enough, and I don’t deserve to love it the way I do.

I don’t want anyone to know I’m a fraud.

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