I dream of Liberace.
Ok. Not really. But I do dream of what he represents.
Pure, unbridled showmanship. The man was a star!!!
Flashy. Daring. Unabashed. Not to mention his outstanding musicianship!
When I first started performing (like in public and on a stage), I was certainly no Liberace. For my first time at an open mic, I played and sang the first song I ever wrote on my own. Of course, this was months after I actually started writing it. I practiced playing it like crazy. When I finally got on stage, the shy version of me took over, and it was over before it began . . .
I started by saying, “Hi, umm, I’m just gonna play a little song for you tonight. And stuff? I hope you like it?”
Ugh. I did that annoying thing where everything I said sounded like a question. I did not own that stage and claim it for myself. Instead, I took out a loan with a high interest rate and rented it for five minutes.
Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remember. But somehow, I think it was.
Now, in hindsight, it’s okay that my first time playing on a stage made me look incontinent. It’s actually part of what made me who I am. That first time was at a venue called The Evening Muse in Charlotte, NC, where I once lived. I would go to many more open mics on that stage later on. Eventually, I would move to Nashville, TN and start doing open mics at places like Cafe Coco and Douglas Corner Cafe. Then, I would play my own shows at places like 3rd and Lindsley, the Exit/In, and BB Kings Blues Bar.
If I didn’t let that shy little Asian take that stage for the first time and feebly go where I was terrified of going, I would not be where I am now.
An important part of my journey as a performing pianist was my willingness to keep going and keep trying. If there is one thing I have learned from history and in life, it’s that deep, substantive change does not happen overnight. It takes its own time across many years to happen.
I wasn’t always going to be that shy little person on stage, and I’m very happy about that. Sometimes, I like to imagine that the shy version of myself now sits in the audience staring back at me as I play. (Looking like he did a prim and proper #2 at the appropriate facilities, no less.)
He’s smiling and beaming proudly.
Liberace, here I come.