“Are you nervous?” Tess asked her friend May Lee, shortly before May’s piano recital at the local music school.
“Not really. I’ve practiced this piece many, many times.”
“Where’s your sheet music?”
“We can’t use it. We have to know it by heart.”
Tess Williams and her mother had come to this little recital that Wednesday evening mostly to hear May play. There were a dozen students on the program, students ranging from first grade to twelfth.
The audience was made up of parents, brothers and sisters, and friends. The youngest students would play for a few minutes or less, with sheet music. The older ones were to play longer and more difficult pieces, without sheet music.
“Mom, what’s this ‘Etude by Chopin’?” Tess asked. This is what May was scheduled to play.
“It‘s pronounced ‘AY-tude by SHOW-pan,’ ‘Etude’ is French for ‘Study,’ and Frederic Chopin was a famous composer of classical piano pieces. I think you will like it. I hope so.”
The children played, with the audience applauding after each piece. The pieces got more difficult as the program went on. May seemed to play perfectly, as did most of the others.
After the recital, there were refreshments: cookies with juice for the kids and coffee or tea for the adults. May and her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Lee, came over to talk with Tess and Mrs. Williams.
“You were wonderful,” Mrs. W. told May.
“Thank you. Almost perfect. One C that should have been C-sharp.”
“It sounded perfect to us,” Tess said.
“How long has May been studying piano?” Mrs. Williams asked her parents.
“Six years, since first grade, and she will continue through twelfth grade,” Mrs. Lee replied, with pride. She could have added that Asian-American parents often strongly encourage their children to study a musical instrument, such as the violin or the piano.
The piano teacher, Mrs. Gilbert, came over to the group. “I hope you enjoyed the recital. I was pleased with the performances.”
Dr. Lee commented, “We thought May played well, and we appreciate your very skilled teaching.”
Mrs. Gilbert responded, “I understand that her mother is a very good pianist, too.”
Mrs. Lee blushed, “You are too generous.”
Tess’s mother added, “They say, ‘like father, like son,’ but here I’d say, ‘like mother, like daughter.’”
May didn’t want a big fuss made over her. She mentioned again that she had not played quite perfectly.
“Some say ‘practice makes perfect,’” Mrs. Gilbert said, “but we say, ‘perfect practice makes perfect.’ May is an excellent student.”
Mrs. Williams smiled at May Lee and her parents and her teacher. “We think May is terrific. You must be doing something right!”
May Lee went on to study piano another six years and had a recital with a community orchestra soon after she graduated. That night, Tess asked May the same question she had asked six years before, “Are you nervous?”
“Very!” May replied. Despite that, she played beautifully, getting a standing ovation at the end. She had risen to the challenge.
One of our series of fifty instructive short stories for young readers.