Some years back, in Asilomar, California, I entered the prestigious Lyon & Healy International Pop & Jazz Harp Competition.
I participated because I wanted to hear what other harpists were doing on their instruments. I wanted to learn from the classes that were being offered during the week long festival.
When I left for California, our two children were very young, 4 & 2 yrs. of age. I felt guilt ridden leaving them behind, but my husband told me not to worry, he encouraged me to go. I went.
I met many harpists including some that I knew from Florida, plus some great teachers. One of the harpists I met, Mary Amanda, had won in a previous competition. As we were walking and talking, she was fiddling with a fish-shaped water pistol. When I confided my fear and performance anxiety she told me if I didn’t relax & enjoy myself while I was playing, she would squirt me!
The performance being adjudicated included stage presence, musical interpretation, musical arranging as well as improvisation. Also a mystery lead sheet to arrange on the spot. All of the contestants picked their performance times out of a hat. I got 12:00 PM. Since it was over lunch, a few more harpists came in to listen, including Mary Amanda. When I heard my name called and came out on stage, I saw her in the back of the room waving that fish pistol. I smiled. The judges thought I looked like I was having a good time. Not ! I introduced the music & sat down to play. My mouth was dry, my palms were moist, and my heart was pounding in my chest. I felt as if I were dying! Sometime during my performance, a man walked up the front aisle of the theater & started asking questions. No idea what the guy wanted, but I was not distracted – I was in the zone. To conclude, I was happy with my performance. I felt I played well in spite of the nerves.
There were three winners, first, second & third place. I hoped I’d make the top three, but I listened to fine harpists who followed me, they were all playing well.
We were given the results later that day. At the time, I was on the phone, with my husband, Tim, telling him all about the out of body experience, when someone ran in the room and told me I won! I asked,”Third?” She shouted at me,”You won first place!” I screamed into the receiver that I won. I don’t know who was more excited, Tim or I? But he was the one that called all our friends, our family and told the most of our neighbors!
The rest of the week was a blur including the final concert where all the winners performed an encore.
The best part was coming home to my family. The second best part, we started working on our first CD, On Top of the World : )