Lessons from the Bench

Describe how a passion or individual talent has shaped you into the person you are today.

The dazzling stage lights blocked out the members of the audience, momentarily blinding me. With sweaty palms, I bowed deeply towards the crowd, symbolically expressing my gratitude. I walked slowly off the wooden stage, my long, white gown swishing delicately behind me. Back in the wings, I took a deep breath and massaged my shoulders, reflecting on the events of the last few moments. I had just played Schubert’s striking “Erlkönig” in my county’s annual scholarship competition. I had devoted the last few months to this very moment, dedicating two to three hours of daily practice. Pausing backstage, I reminisced about the lessons I had learned from the bench over the past twelve years.

I began taking piano lessons when I was five years old. My parents later told me that the instrument’s ivory keys, which sounded so sweet one moment and so intense the next, mesmerized me. I longed to lovingly stroke those eighty-eight keys and convey my emotions to my audience, expressively connecting with the music on a personal level I could only dream of. What began as an innocent desire to create beautiful music transformed into a profound passion, fueled by sincere focus and dedication.

I feel that playing the piano has developed me as a person, and each time I sit down to play, I learn new lessons from the bench. Music has given me the desire to strive for excellence in anything that I attempt. From enrolling in advanced classes to exerting myself in my daily workouts, my ardent desire for precision encourages me to attempt new tasks with a clear perspective. Yet, music has also taught me patience and acceptance. I avidly continue studying the components of a piece until I find exactitude in my playing. I have also learned not to become worked up when I miss a note or mistakenly interpret the cantible style of a measure. Each time I encounter a challenging rhythmic section or a rapid chordal progression, I allow my mind to search for a fresh viewpoint as I condense my problems into manageable sections. Whenever I become discouraged, I am reminded of my teacher’s straightforward mantra, “Simplify, pre-plan, and see the perspective,” I regroup my thoughts, take a breath, and try the section again. The lessons of dedication and focus learned at the bench have impacted me so strongly that I have transferred these teachings into my personal development. My fierce desire for excellence is also evident in my academic achievements, as I maintained a 4.0 GPA while enrolled in college classes during my senior year. When discouraged over a difficult subject or one of life’s challenges, I stimulate my mind and body for success as I remind myself of the rewards which ensue from hard work, patience, and dedicated focus. Simplification is perhaps one the greatest lessons I have mastered. When demanding circumstances arise, I challenge myself to attack the difficulty one step at a time, just like I tackled “Erlkönig” one measure at a time. Simplification provides me with the clarity to solve complicated problems.

The baritone voice of the emcee rang out throughout the concert hall, inviting the evening’s participants to take the stage for the awards ceremony. As the names were called, I stood quietly, overwhelmed in my private thoughts. Suddenly, my name was announced, and a giant sparkling trophy was placed in my arms. I had won the first prize scholarship, and I was elated! Amid the flash of the photographers, I turned to glance at the black Steinway grand piano. Wheeled to the back of the stage, it rested there majestically, the glare of the stage lights dancing on its gleaming ebony body. I gazed fondly at the instrument’s ivory keys, longing to touch them once more, and slowly smiled, vowing to remember this moment forever.

After years of practicing music, I have developed an intense bond with my instrument, a bond that has led me to strive fervently for improvements in my personal growth. Playing the piano is not merely a vocation, but a passion. Every evening, I yearn to pour my heart and soul into those eighty-eight keys. From its tiny hammers to its brass pedals, the piano has become my love, my teacher, and my greatest joy. Whatever obstacles may hinder my path, I am confident in my ability to overcome them, using all that I learned in all those lessons from the bench.

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