Remembering a Recital

A little girl had performed “Clair de Lune” at her piano recital, which was held at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro. She thought she played well. After the recital was over the students were standing near the piano and being hugged and congratulated by their parents. This child’s dad came up and very cuttingly commented to his daughter, “If you can’t do any better than that, I don’t want you to ever perform again.”

Because of trauma, she remembered little of her childhood. Years later, as an adult, some memories came back to her and she asked her teacher if this were true, as she didn’t believe that a parent would respond in this way. The teacher replied yes, that she had been shocked. She remembered saying to him, “why, L—-, she did so well.” The teacher told the woman that she never played again in front of anyone, though she continued taking lessons as she loved music. The teacher reminded her that she even taught her on the church pipe organ to try to encourage her talent and love of music.

One day, the little girl walked in after school to find an electronic organ with three keyboards. Her father told her he had purchased it for her, that he loved organ music and wanted her to play for him. She much preferred the piano and never had dreamed of wanting to continue playing the organ, certainly not to own one. She enjoyed the wonder of the sounds of the pipe organ on which she had been taught, but she did not wish to learn to play this instrument, preferring to concentrate on the piano.

When this young girl went away to college, her dad demanded that she take organ lessons. She had never studied theory and was totally lost. At semester, she was assigned “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Bach for her performance grade and hoped her parents wouldn’t be there in time to hear her. They arrived, and she stumbled through the piece, dropping organ immediately. She now remembers how terrified she was to perform once more, and especially in front of her dad.

She was never able to accompany a Sunday School class as they sang hymns or even enjoy a “sing-a-long.” The standards of perfection set for her were not possible to achieve.

Today she seeks out beautiful music, mainly classical, wherever she can. These performances bring a sense of comfort and wellness.

Parental bullying is terrifying to a child. The victims sometimes look good to outsiders but they are always trying to please, wondering what others think of them, denying their own wants and needs. The other side of the spectrum is a child who acts out because of desperation and fear, having been denied the love and affirmation so important in building self esteem.

Parents, please remember this story. You may have guessed – I was that child. And I can tell you firsthand that an experience like this is more than an embarrassment, it is degrading and humiliating. I would doubt this memory if it hadn’t been experienced and confirmed by the teacher I adored. Would this be called bullying in this world today? Verbal abuse? Or just taken as criticism of a daughter’s ability and/or practice accountability?