“I was just wondering – do you think it would be completely bonkers for me to take my Grade One?”
When I started having piano lessons, a couple of years ago now, I told Holly that I wasn’t even considering taking any exams. Why would I? Particularly with a tremor which, though generally mild and well-behaved, has been known to have the Mother of all Temper Tantrums in times of stress. Exams are stressful; piano exams need obedient hands; stress leads to disobedient hands; disobedient hands would make exams even more stressful. Even considering this would be illogical, Captain.
But Holly’s teaching is fab-u-lous. I can now tackle scales and arpeggios and broken chords: all of which were once well beyond me and – gradually – I wonder about having a shot at something to mark my progress.
Holly doesn’t laugh at me. Apparently there’s even a space on the application form to mention factors like Parkinson’s. I might even get some extra time if needed. Let’s go for it!
So, since October, I’ve been beavering away at scales and aural tests and sight reading. And I’ve practised and practised and practised my three exam pieces to the absolute delight of my neighbours. Sometimes my saints march in reasonably fluently; often my playing owes more to Les Dawson than Lang Lang.
By the time I’m sitting in the waiting room at the test centre, I know that with a fair wind and a little bit of luck I can play the pieces fluently. As long as I stay calm. I try and distract myself by talking with the other waiting candidate but he’s taking Grade Six and is fifty years younger than me so we’ve less in common than one might think. By the time I am called in, I am truly starting to wonder what the heck I’m doing there.
There are two people in the exam room: a smily lady who is my examiner and a more serious looking chap who is, apparently, examining the examiner. I have a choice of pianos and opt for a gorgeous looking Grand – why wouldn’t I? – and my scales have never sounded so good. The broken chords go well, I think, and – praise the Lord – my first piece is fine. Not the best I’ve ever played it but fine.
Halfway through my second piece, I play a wrong note. I try and get back on track but my hand starts to shake. I grind to a halt. I don’t know what to do apart from to apologise.
“No problem,” smiles the examiner. “Would you like to take a moment and then start again?” I would. I do. It goes fine. But I’m a bit cross with myself and rather stumble through the last piece, which I’d hoped to be my showstopper. Rats.
The rest of the exam seems to go smoothly – quite a relief as I really hate sight -reading – and then it’s all done and dusted.
Well, it wasn’t a complete disaster, I tell Holly. So that’s good. It would have been nice to have done myself (and Holly) more credit but just doing the exam felt like an achievement, whatever the result.
When I was diagnosed – nearly, oh seven years ago – my expectation was that lots of doors would slam shut pretty quickly. I reckoned I’d be soon giving up things, not taking them on. But as I met and read about inspirational people – and there are so many out there – I started to grasp that – as the brilliant @DancingShrub says in his tips for the newly diagnosed – “Degenerative isn’t next week”.
New year; new term; new pieces to work on. This time, I’m challenging my inner Mrs Mills (look her up, youngsters). May the New Year also bring you the chance to live adventurously!
What? Well, since you ask, yes I did get my result last week. No, really, I couldn’t. Well, since you insist… I might just have got a distinction. #ModestFaceEmoji
@DancingShrub’s top tips for the Newly Diagnosed are:
1. You are still you.
2. Degenerative isn’t next week.
3. Find a PD hero.
4. Adapt as required
5. Don’t tell work ’til you need to.
7. New symptoms? It’s not always PD.
8. Meds on time!
9. Take part in research.
10. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
So much wisdom here. If you’re interested in Parkinson’s and are still allowed on Twitter, I’d thoroughly recommend a follow.