From age six to age twelve, I took piano lessons at a local music school in my hometown. Though the school was designed for children, its program was rigorous, and some of the pupils were there with the intention of pursuing music as career in the future. Twice every year, each student was required to take an exam where they played the instrument of choice in front of all the teachers and some guest examiners.
The summer when I was seven, I took my first exam. I was supposed to play a sonatina that I had been practicing for a while. At that age, without any prior experience of exams, I didn’t have any performance anxiety. I calmly waited for my turn, and when it came, I walked through the door to the exam room, which was the largest in our tiny music school.
In the room, I saw a piano and many faces — some were the teachers I knew, but some were new faces. In the front row, there were two gentlemen in black suits. They somehow had a merry atmosphere.
After observing all of this, I stood in front of the piano, bowed deeply, and started playing.
It went well. I thought it was one of the best performances I had made with that particular music piece. Satisfied, I stood up and took another deep bow.
Then, as I looked up, I found the two merry gentlemen in the front row laughing at me. For a moment, I wondered if I had done anything out of line. But nobody said anything, so I left the room.
As I walked back to the car with my mother, I told her everything that had happened in the exam room. After telling her how well my performance had gone, I told her about the strange laugh I observed in the two guest examiners.
“When I took the bow, I saw them laughing at me,” I said. “I mean, isn’t that rude? Did I do my bow wrong or what?”
Just then, a group of merry people passed by. They were the teachers and guest examiners going out for lunch break.
“You did really well!” My teacher called out. Others were smiling, including the merry gentlemen who laughed after my performance.
After they passed, my mother ushered me into the car, and we drove back home. In any case, we were both happy that my first exam went well.
Later, my teacher told me that one of the two gentlemen, the one who was particularly merry during the exam and who laughed at my bow, apparently liked my performance very much.
“So, there was nothing wrong with my bow,” I thought to myself, relieved.
Because of this incident, my first piano exam became totally unforgettable.