I don’t want to boast or anything, but I’ve been told, and by people who know, by experts in the field, that I am one of the most average pianists they’ve ever heard.   So it was no surprise when I received a formal invitation from my friend Janet to perform for a group of 3-year-olds at the local library.

I tend to avoid publicity, the media, that whole rock star thing as much as possible.  But Mrs. Rotting Post said, “Oh you should do this!”

“Why should I do it?” I asked.

“It’ll be fun!”

“It will?”


“It doesn’t sound like fun.”

“Oh, you’ll like it.  Plus think of everything Janet’s done for us!”

This last part got me.   Janet has indeed been a good friend.  And wasn’t I one of those modern male-type-people who liked kids – even, occasionally, ones who were not in my bloodline?    Sure I was!

And so, in a state of semi-conscious temporary insanity, I consented.


Immediately, I sensed there were two serious problems:  First, I was woefully out of practice at the piano.  Second, I was woefully out-of-practice at 3-year-olds.   What were they like?  What if I couldn’t remember how to talk to them?   What if I couldn’t remember how to play?  What if I freaked out in the middle, and suddenly got up and ran away?   WHAT HAD I AGREED TO?

In the next days I fretted over the program.  Should I open with, “Mr. Golden Sun”?  Or Chopin?  The mid-program could be works by Ravel and Brahms.  Or no.  Maybe the Alphabet Song.  But…would I have to sing it?  What if I forgot the letters?   There were 26 of them, supposedly.  That’s a lot to remember!

Meanwhile, I scoured my brain, trying to recall anything I could about three-year-olds.  But I kept coming up empty.  They were very small.   I was pretty sure of that.  And fidgety.  But what else?  What language did they speak?  I should remember to smile.  And seem excited.  But don’t overdo it!  That would be creepy.

As the big day arrived, I found my anxiety building.  I would mess up horribly.  Some three year-old would send in a letter to the local paper:

“Dear Grown-ups,
While storytime at the Auburndale Library was good, I regret that I cannot say the same for the pianist, who was extremely disappointing.  He stumbled through, ‘And Bingo Was His Name-O’ and his ‘Old MacDonald’ had no feeling whatever.  Please do better in the future.”  Or worse, the media would be there at my performance!   I would be in the paper:  ”Local Man Bombs At Library Concert.  Kids Could Be Scarred For Life.”

And then, at last, it was time.  I drove around looking for this library and was relieved when it seemed to not exist.  I called Janet, hoping she would not answer, and I wouldn’t be able to perform because I couldn’t find the library or, even better, it was all a bad dream.  Unfortunately, she guided me to the correct, “Auburn Street”.

Next I felt a sharp twang in my lower back. This was good!  My back was out!  I wouldn’t be able to play.  I would spend a few days in bed, moaning in pain. What luck!

Tragically, the pain seemed fleeting.  In a matter of a minute or two, it had fleeted.  There was no avoiding it.  I was doomed.  While Janet read her story, I paced backstage, did a final mental run-through of my pieces, felt myself beginning to perspire.   And then the kids came out.  Circled around the piano.  It turned out there were exactly five 3-year-olds.   Apparently, my fame was just a hair behind, say, a Billy Joel.  Or even a Raffi.  Still, five terrifying 3-year-olds!   Perhaps they could appoint a leader for me to communicate with.

“Who knows the Alphabet Song?” I asked, with a big, possibly too big, possibly creepy smile.   They stared at me expressionlessly.  I played.  Janet sang.  Mothers clapped hands.  Kids twirled, spaced out and back in and back out again.   I could do this!  My interpretation of “Frere Jacques” was solid.  And then I totally rocked the house with, “Mr Golden Sun”.  It was true! I WAS a cool, kid-friendly male-type person.  Now I just had to Get the Hell Out of There!

I finished with Satin Doll, by Duke Ellington.  Granted, this piece has never made the 3-year-olds greatest hits list.  But here’s the thing:  If you play a wrong note in Mozart, it’s about as subtle as a fire-alarm.  If you play a wrong note in Satin Doll, it can be easily smoothed over with a few tie-in notes, a brief melodic tangent that is the musical equivalent of, “I meant to do that”.

Which is pretty much how I felt about the whole experience.  It was SO GREAT!   I so meant to do that!  I so cannot wait to do that again!



          • I can’t tell you how much that means to me to hear that. Thank you so much! I’ve only been at it since January and am learning as I go, but this is truly a joy for me to combine cooking and food with books and writing. If you wouldn’t mind, perhaps you might comment on some of my posts to help with my SEO? I will happily keep doing that for your blog, too. This apparently helps people find and follow blogs and I’d like to try and grow a good readership base. Thanks again for the compliments and encouragement!

  1. “Perhaps they could appoint a leader for me to communicate with”……… so funny. This piece is wonderful!!

    • thanks! a bit of a departure. i tend to avoid the 1st person narrative, as it seems like that is what a lot of blogs are, and often the minutiae of life are not all that fascinating. but this seems like it could be fun.

  2. I loved this. 😹 But as you performed admirably, you are probably now on the teachers’ top ten list for older classes. Stick to the littlies before they grow old and streetwise enough to turn.
    Great post that cheered me up no end. Thank you for the happy notes 🎼🎼🎼👌💃🏻

  3. I was right there with you all the way through this anecdote. Although I enjoyed the journey very much, I was also a little apprehensive about how it was all going to work out. Your title sounded positive, but there was always the possibility that you were being ironic and the concert ended with the kids throwing half-chewed cookies (or whatever three-year-olds throw) at you as you fled the piano. I’m glad to hear you are now a major star among the pre-elementary school set. 🙂

  4. Very funny. The times I’ve given parties for the kids and their little friends—fortunately, only a handful of them, or less!—I’ve been mortified by the process. Like you, I probably over-fretted and over-prepared. In the end, you (and possibly the teachers and maybe a couple of the parents) are the only ones who are working so hard on the whole process. The kids are just experience sponges, taking whatever comes and, like you said, in their own world/in their own heads at random times at that age. In any case, I got a nice happily-ever-after here amid my laughter, Mr. Rotting Post!

  5. Thanks, Leigh. I do remember that pre-birthday party anxiety, when they were little. But it’s true, they all always seemed to go home happy. This was definitely sweeter / happier piece that a lot of mine, which can et rather acid

  6. Well, now that you’ve handed five three-year-olds, you’re all set to master playing for 7.5 two-year-olds. Or 3.75 four-year-olds, if you want to risk seeing some of the same kids again next year.

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