A Christmas Tale, by Angie

One of my early experiences playing in public was when my 8th grade choir teacher found out that I played piano.

Background info on music conductors who have the burdensome task of directing and playing at the same time: most of them do not like to do this, and for good reason. It is, after all, physically impossible to play piano, which uses both hands, and conduct a musical ensemble of any kind, which for good conductors, also uses both hands. So you end up doing a mediocre job of both tasks, making you feel kinda split down the middle...

However, I'm one of the anomalies and exceptions.  Since I'm ADHD, the more things I can be doing at once, the happier I am, so I ADORE playing and conducting at the same time...

No, not really. But over the years I've gotten quite used to it, and so it's one of the many bazillion tasks I do professionally.

Coming back from that little side trip now:
My 8th grade choir teacher found out I played piano. So naturally I became her golden goose, and she very quickly put me to work playing for our choir's rehearsals.

Almost daily.

That freed her up to focus on conducting. It also kept me from singing, or what I like to call, doing what I actually signed up to do in class...but it was a wonderful opportunity to actually play in the real world and not just for the piano recitals that I had grown up playing, or for the church, which is really only a halfway house to the real world...

In the grand scheme of things, Miss Y. had a significant influence in my musical development, and ultimately a positive one. She did, however, have her quirks. She always smelled like cigarette smoke and Aquanet, and I'm fairly certain she was addicted to nasal spray. She had a temper, but I don't remember her ever directing it at me.

Miss Y. secured a public performance for our choir at one of the local malls, The Mall in St. Matthews. Yes, we in Louisville have a mall that has such an inflated sense of self-importance, it never accepted an actual name.

When we arrived and walked inside to set up, you couldn't help but appreciate how splendidly its halls were decked. Bright red and green was everywhere, and gargantuan Christmas trees along the walls and in the little plaza areas. We set up in one of these areas, not far from the giant chess board, for those of you familiar with The Mall.

This chess set, by the way, for those of you unfamiliar, is a gloriously decorative but fully functional game board with wooden pieces, displayed in the middle of one of the mall's many walkways. It is about one third the size of the Harry Potter chess board from the first movie, if you've seen that. If you haven't seen the movie, it's maybe 12' x 12'.

So the magic mall elves provided risers for our choir, and we all started to file up onto the risers. I was in line with the rest of the singers, and Miss Y. pulled me aside and asked me to play.

The piano.

For our mini concert.

I admit to being somewhat scatterbrained at times, but my memory is actually fairly good, and at no time did I remember her ever asking me to play the concert instead of sing. In my world, this was quite last minute, and totally news to me. She probably saw that on my face, and I'm pretty sure all I could manage in response was "what??"

To which she replied: "there's ten bucks in it for you."

As it turned out, in many respects, I was a typical kid. Wave ten bucks on a carrot stick in front of me, and you can get 8th grade me to do almost anything musical. Point me to the piano, Miss Y.

We had fun, performed a great choir concert, got to eat lunch out (this was pre-food court), and got out of most of a school day. I should have been perfectly happy and content, yet...

My teacher had promised me ten dollars.

I went up to my teacher after the concert and asked for my ten dollars, even held out my hand like Oliver.

And my teacher...

Chuckled slightly and turned away. I realized then that she was never, in fact, going to pay me the ten dollars promised.

I was that bicycle-riding newspaper boy in the John Cusack movie, Better Off Dead, yelling (sometimes rasping), "give me my two dollars!"

Except it was ten for me, Miss Y., TEN!!! *insert maniacal raging scream inside head*

I can joke about it now, but that was the first time I truly felt betrayed and cheated. More importantly, it was the first time an authority figure caused those feelings. After that, I just got used it...


It was a really early lesson that reminds me to always get a Contract.

The End