M

arcel played first at his bass recital.

His position in the line-up, as it were, was a both a good and a bad thing. It’s always a relief to get your thing ‘out of the way’, whatever your thing may be. Once you’ve had your turn, however, it might become difficult to maintain the same level of interest for the next 17 soloists (a real number, not hyberbole) without that bit of anticipatory adrenaline to keep you going.

I probably would have had Marcel lead-off, too, and not because I’m his mommy. It can be a hardship to go first in front of an audience of more than 50 sweaty, iPad-wielding parents but not for Marcel so much. It isn’t that he can’t wait to show the crowd what he’s got; no, it’s more like he doesn’t know that the rest of us are there, watching. He plays his song and looks around the room but not really at the people so much and then, wham, he bows (because his teacher said you can’t get a cookie at the reception until you do) and then he’s slumped over in the seat next to you like he was just abducted by aliens and has no recall of the previous five minutes.

So we’re reunited in the audience, Marcel and I, hunkered down for the rest of the 90-minute bass extravaganza, and buried somewhere just past midway, after the kid with his hair intentionally styled across his face so as to obscure his eyes and the girl who played “If I Were a Rich Man” but before the girl who did “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” justice, a man took the stage. A grown-ass man ascended the stage where, heretofore, only children had dared tread. I sat up straighter. Marcel might have, too, but probably not.

The adult student—for that was, indeed, what he was—was joined onstage by his teacher. Together, the two men began a duet of “Lightly Row,” the teacher plucking the strings while the student used his bow. It was an audacious performance in that it was exactly what you might imagine a beginning student’s run at “Lightly Row” on a string instrument might be simply because the student was around 50.

There he stood, exposed in all of his inexpertness, moving his bow and making sounds that weren’t predictable. He was an adult and he was still learning, damn it, just like we all but in an obvious way, all screechy and off-key. The rest of us just get to pretend we have it—whatever ‘it’ happens to be—down. This man wasn’t afraid to show people that he doesn’t.

Or, if he was, he was brave enough to do it anyway.


I tried not to let the other sweaty parents catch me crying over the performance of a student other than my son, one with his own wife in the audience, for Christ’s sake. I think I was successful for the most part. Marcel and I had somewhere else to be and so we took our cookies to go, but I can tell you I spent the rest of the afternoon humming “Lightly Row” to myself.

It might have been better than the Vivaldi.