We are thick into recital season. Like the blooming of spring tulips, this time of year brings front-and-center the piano solos, band concerts, choir performances and dance recitals.
Patent leather shoes and little clip-on ties. Tutus and stage makeup. Slicked hair. Nervous tears.
Hours of repetition of phrasing, tricky notes, metronomes, tapping on the kitchen floor, dress rehearsals.
The recital, to me, has always been a strange specimen. Hours of practice, sweat, backstage jitters, the great buildup and then: five minutes on stage. Two minutes of "Twinkle." A rush through Bach. A flash, a glimmer, a burst of sound and it's over.
I've been to recitals with packed houses and those where the only people in the audience are two sets of parents and … the kids playing their instruments. The children perform for a vaulted ceiling and a smattering of applause.
And yet I believe in recitals. I believe in the somewhat staged, pretentious deadline. The mastery isn't for some other, it is for self. I can see in my kids' eyes the inner pride that comes from stepping on stage and performing well. Or not. The bungled performances are still a triumph, because they had the gall to stand up, quaking with fear and plow through, however messy the outcome.
There is a natural high that comes from tackling something just out of reach: the double pirouette, the drum solo or the octave reaches of a Rachmaninoff.
Which is why I wish adults held recitals with the frequency of children. When is it in our growing up years that we decide mastery is no longer important? That deadlines are only for work and never for play?
I want to bring back the recital, the adult recital, where we pull out a rusty trombone or a tattered pair of tap shoes and perform. When I am particularly hard on my kids for sloppy playing, they sometimes remind me, "Mom, this is harder than it looks." They're right. It's easy for me to forget. I am out of practice.
A recent column in the New York Times argued that we need to bring back hobbies. Not to make money or grow a brand or increase our following, but simply for the love. As Americans, we are laser-focused on productivity —if we don't see an immediate outcome, what's the point? If we can't be the best, why keep going?
"For many of us, expectations of an "always-on" working life have made hobbies a thing of the past, relegated to mere memories of what we used to do in our free time. Worse still, many hobbies have morphed into the dreaded side hustle or as paths to career development, turning the things we ostensibly do for fun into … more work," writes Jaya Saxena in "The Case for Having a Hobby."
But we don't feel this way about our kids. We put them in multiple activities such as art classes, tae kwon do and T-ball because we want them to be well-rounded, active, interesting and diverse.
Most of us aren't out to raise professional musicians/dancers/athletes. We recognize that learning new skills builds character. And let's not forget joy, which seems to be the point of the entire endeavor for both parent and child.
We want our children to feel the micro-successes that come each spring when they step onto that stage. We want to remind them how far they've come. And if we dare to join them, with our rusty instruments and rusty skills, perhaps we can both clap from the audience and also play along.