Sunday, March 15, 2015

     Last night, Mr. Wonderful and I watched Whiplash with some close friends. We all sat incredulous as we watched J.K. Simmons attempt to destroy his student in an effort to make him “great.” If Fletcher wanted to create another “Bird,” he sure had a despicable way of doing it. The movie should have been entitled “Despicable Dick.” 

    The conversation following the film was fascinating. We all had an opinion, and all opinions were fraught with intense emotion. We are still talking about it, as Mr. W. had nightmares about it last night. In discussing it over his lumpy cracker-laced soup, he revealed situations when he was young in which he was bullied and made to feel like the kid in the film. I, too, had experiences like that, and I believe it’s those experiences that fuel the reaction of the viewers. 

    Some believe the wrong message was sent by showing that the kid succeeded in “earning the part” at the end. So does this mean that tyrant bullies are doing us a favor? In my humble opinion, the kid didn’t have a loving connection in his life. His father wasn’t supportive and was even critical at times, and his mother had left him when he was a baby. His relatives were one-upping him bragging about their achievements and belittling his dreams. Unfortunately, he reacted by one-upping their narcissistic behavior. 
The reason he endured the unconscionable abuse from his teacher was to connect, and his music was his only connection. This is not to say that bullies are the way to get there. I know, as I had a tyrannical music teacher too. But mine was even more insidious; she was a sweet bully, pretending to have my interests at heart and to love me into submission. 

     I was working on a piano recital my senior year in high school. My teacher told me I wouldn’t have time for Prom, Senior Trip, Senior Party, Senior Picnic. I had to practice. When I gave up most of these and spent four to six hours a day practicing, she berated me for “spinning my wheels” (my father’s favorite line). When I didn’t play a passage correctly, she accused me of not focusing and trying to “get away with fooling her.” She quoted famous people who beat the odds and told me that if I wanted to “be someone,” I had to pay the price. She likened my practice to ballerinas who danced until their feet bled. She didn’t throw things at me or swear or embarrass me in front of anyone else. Her torment was worse; it was behind closed doors in her studio where no one but me heard or felt the impact. I often left in tears, and I never felt like I was “good enough.” 

     To this day, her voice rings in my ears when I sit down at the piano. I brush my shoulder to push her away, but I know that she is out there in the audience somewhere saying, “You missed that note,” or “What did you do in that passage?” 

     Did she inspire me and motivate me to practice? Yes. Did she teach me how to play to the best of my ability? Yes. Did she cripple me? Absolutely. I have continued to perform, but I always know it will never be good enough for her. It’s taken me years and years to believe that it’s good enough for me. I am almost there.