The Solo

By: Paula Chirinos

 

Have​ ​you​ ​ever​ ​had​ ​that​ ​gut-wrenching​ ​feeling​ ​in​ ​your​ ​stomach​ ​before​ ​you​ ​went​ ​up​ ​in front​ ​of​ ​hundreds​ ​(maybe​ ​thousands)​ ​of​ ​people​ ​to​ ​give​ ​a​ ​speech​ ​or​ ​a​ ​performance?​ ​That’s exactly​ ​what​ ​I​ ​was​ ​feeling​ ​before​ ​I​ ​walked​ ​up​ ​on​ ​that​ ​stage.​ ​I​ ​was​ ​sitting​ ​backstage​ ​with​ ​my teacher,​ ​waiting​ ​for​ ​the​ ​stage​ ​crew​ ​people​ ​to​ ​call​ ​me​ ​to​ ​go​ ​through​ ​the​ ​dark,​ ​fancy​ ​door​ ​and​ ​join the​ ​rest​ ​of​ ​the​ ​performers.​ ​It​ ​seemed​ ​like​ ​so​ ​much​ ​time​ ​had​ ​passed​ ​before​ ​they​ ​actually​ ​called my​ ​name​ ​and​ ​every​ ​second,​ ​I​ ​felt​ ​like​ ​there​ ​were​ ​knots​ ​twisting​ ​in​ ​my​ ​stomach.​ ​My​ ​legs​ ​couldn’t stay​ ​still​ ​as​ ​they​ ​were​ ​shaking​ ​and​ ​I​ ​felt​ ​like​ ​I​ ​was​ ​losing​ ​my​ ​balance​ ​to​ ​my​ ​unnecessary​ ​high heels​ ​that​ ​my​ ​mom​ ​made​ ​me​ ​wear​ ​during​ ​special​ ​occasions.​ ​Despite​ ​all​ ​this​ ​however,​ ​I​ ​knew that​ ​there​ ​was​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​me​ ​that​ ​wasn’t​ ​scared​ ​at​ ​all​ ​since​ ​it​ ​kept​ ​reminding​ ​me​ ​that​ ​I​ ​had​ ​been preparing​ ​for​ ​this​ ​moment​ ​longer​ ​than​ ​I​ ​thought.​ ​I​ ​finally​ ​walked​ ​out​ ​into​ ​the​ ​concert​ ​hall,​ ​greeted the​ ​conductor,​ ​then​ ​the​ ​pianist​ ​and​ ​looked​ ​back​ ​at​ ​my​ ​peers​ ​who​ ​were​ ​the​ ​backing​ ​chorus​ ​for my​ ​solo.​ ​They​ ​gave​ ​me​ ​looks​ ​of​ ​encouragement​ ​and​ ​then,​ ​among​ ​the​ ​murmur​ ​of​ ​the​ ​crowd​ ​in the​ ​audience,​ ​I​ ​began​ ​tuning​ ​my​ ​instrument.​ ​With​ ​the​ ​instruction​ ​of​ ​the​ ​conductor,​ ​I​ ​finally​ ​put my​ ​violin​ ​up​ ​on​ ​my​ ​shoulder​ ​and​ ​all​ ​my​ ​previous​ ​fears​ ​vanished.​ ​Silence​ ​surrounded​ ​every being​ ​in​ ​the​ ​auditorium,​ ​my​ ​bow​ ​went​ ​up​ ​and​ ​I​ ​started​ ​playing.

One​ ​cannot​ ​say​ ​they’ve​ ​truly​ ​mastered​ ​the​ ​art​ ​of​ ​the​ ​violin​ ​until​ ​they’ve​ ​learned​ ​to become​ ​one​ ​with​ ​their​ ​instrument.​ ​They​ ​must​ ​vanish​ ​every​ ​other​ ​thought​ ​in​ ​their​ ​mind​ ​once​ ​they put​ ​that​ ​violin​ ​on​ ​their​ ​shoulder​ ​and​ ​devote​ ​the​ ​whole​ ​performance​ ​to​ ​conserving​ ​the​ ​beauty​ ​of each​ ​of​ ​the​ ​songs​ ​they​ ​play​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​knowing​ ​their​ ​role​ ​in​ ​the​ ​orchestra.​ ​I​ ​get​ ​into​ ​a​ ​trance whenever​ ​I​ ​start​ ​playing​ ​in​ ​recitals​ ​and​ ​concerts,​ ​one​ ​which​ ​I​ ​cannot​ ​accurately​ ​describe.​ ​It soothes​ ​my​ ​anxiety​ ​since​ ​I​ ​truly​ ​feel​ ​as​ ​though​ ​I​ ​become​ ​one​ ​with​ ​the​ ​rest​ ​of​ ​my​ ​peers​ ​in​ ​the orchestra.​ ​My​ ​feelings​ ​during​ ​this​ ​performance​ ​were​ ​different​ ​however.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​just​ ​me​ ​playing my​ ​violin​ ​with​ ​a​ ​chorus​ ​backing​ ​my​ ​solo,​ ​yet​ ​I​ ​had​ ​the​ ​greatest​ ​amount​ ​of​ ​confidence​ ​during​ ​this performance​ ​than​ ​any​ ​other.​ ​I​ ​didn’t​ ​realize​ ​until​ ​soon​ ​after,​ ​that​ ​there​ ​were​ ​actually​ ​thoughts going​ ​through​ ​my​ ​head.​ ​They​ ​were​ ​in​ ​fact​ ​more​ ​than​ ​thoughts​ ​actually,​ ​they​ ​were​ ​memories; memories​ ​of​ ​my​ ​late​ ​grandmother​ ​and​ ​the​ ​one​ ​promise​ ​I​ ​made​ ​to​ ​her​ ​years​ ​ago.​ ​My​ ​mind​ ​first wandered​ ​to​ ​my​ ​youth,​ ​when​ ​I​ ​was​ ​with​ ​her​ ​dressed​ ​up​ ​like​ ​a​ ​little​ ​doctor​ ​and​ ​gave​ ​my​ ​grandma one​ ​of​ ​her​ ​“regular​ ​check​ ​ups”.​ ​I​ ​promised​ ​her​ ​that​ ​whenever​ ​she​ ​was​ ​sick,​ ​she​ ​could​ ​call​ ​me​ ​so that​ ​I​ ​could​ ​take​ ​care​ ​of​ ​her.​ ​This​ ​was​ ​easy​ ​then​ ​since​ ​my​ ​family’s​ ​apartment​ ​was​ ​very​ ​close​ ​to hers.​ ​The​ ​next​ ​memory​ ​I​ ​had​ ​was​ ​of​ ​me​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​learn​ ​my​ ​solo​ ​piece​ ​for​ ​my​ ​NYSSMA​ ​audition. My​ ​violin​ ​teacher​ ​assigned​ ​me​ ​to​ ​learn​ ​a​ ​piece​ ​known​ ​as​ ​the​ ​“Violin​ ​Concerto​ ​in​ ​A​ ​minor”​ ​by​ ​the composer,​ ​Antonio​ ​Vivaldi.​ ​I​ ​remembered​ ​that​ ​I​ ​had​ ​called​ ​my​ ​grandma​ ​after​ ​having​ ​run​ ​through the​ ​whole​ ​song​ ​a​ ​couple​ ​of​ ​times.​ ​I​ ​then​ ​played​ ​the​ ​piece​ ​for​ ​her​ ​followed​ ​by​ ​her​ ​loud​ ​praise​ ​of my​ ​ability.​ ​Her​ ​cheers​ ​were​ ​so​ ​unique.​ ​They​ ​consisted​ ​of​ ​her​ ​joyful,​ ​high-pitched​ ​comments​ ​on how​ ​proud​ ​she​ ​was​ ​of​ ​me;​ ​ones​ ​that​ ​would​ ​make​ ​everyone​ ​in​ ​the​ ​room​ ​turn​ ​to​ ​look​ ​at​ ​the​ ​loud grandma​ ​sitting​ ​in​ ​the​ ​back​ ​of​ ​the​ ​room​ ​yelling​ ​“Bravo​ ​Paula​ ​Bravo!”.​ ​They​ ​were​ ​cheers​ ​I​ ​often heard​ ​whenever​ ​she​ ​went​ ​to​ ​see​ ​my​ ​concerts​ ​or​ ​my​ ​volleyball​ ​games.​ ​Then​ ​I​ ​thought​ ​about​ ​her face.​ ​She​ ​was​ ​always​ ​smiling.​ ​She​ ​was​ ​a​ ​proud​ ​woman​ ​and​ ​she​ ​definitely​ ​had​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​to​ ​be​ ​proud of,​ ​with​ ​her​ ​children​ ​and​ ​grandchildren​ ​accomplishing​ ​so​ ​much.​ ​The​ ​last​ ​time​ ​I​ ​had​ ​seen​ ​her​ ​that proud​ ​was​ ​when​ ​I​ ​went​ ​to​ ​visit​ ​her​ ​in​ ​the​ ​hospital​ ​and​ ​read​ ​to​ ​her​ ​as​ ​I​ ​helped​ ​her​ ​stroll​ ​around​ ​in her​ ​wheelchair.​ ​We​ ​stopped​ ​at​ ​various​ ​spots​ ​that​ ​day,​ ​such​ ​as​ ​the​ ​little​ ​garden​ ​located​ ​near​ ​the hospital’s​ ​kitchen.​ ​That​ ​was​ ​the​ ​last​ ​time​ ​I​ ​remember​ ​seeing​ ​her​ ​smile.​ ​She​ ​was​ ​so​ ​strong throughout​ ​her​ ​whole​ ​battle​ ​with​ ​Lung​ ​Cancer​ ​but​ ​even​ ​on​ ​that​ ​day,​ ​when​ ​I​ ​felt​ ​like​ ​we​ ​were truly​ ​connecting​ ​and​ ​enjoying​ ​each​ ​other’s​ ​company,​ ​I​ ​could​ ​tell​ ​she​ ​was​ ​suffering.​ ​The​ ​previous times​ ​that​ ​I​ ​visited​ ​her​ ​with​ ​my​ ​father,​ ​her​ ​tone​ ​when​ ​she​ ​told​ ​the​ ​two​ ​of​ ​us​ ​stories​ ​about​ ​our
family’s​ ​past,​ ​had​ ​clearly​ ​changed​ ​from​ ​the​ ​joyful​ ​tone​ ​we​ ​were​ ​used​ ​to​ ​hearing​ ​during​ ​our regular​ ​family​ ​reunions.​ ​Some​ ​of​ ​these​ ​stories​ ​would​ ​usually​ ​make​ ​us​ ​roar​ ​into​ ​laughter​ ​during our​ ​reunions​ ​but​ ​the​ ​setting​ ​was​ ​darker​ ​now.

The​ ​song’s​ ​tone​ ​was​ ​peaceful​ ​now.​ ​My​ ​violin’s​ ​sound​ ​was​ ​supposed​ ​to​ ​replicate​ ​that​ ​of​ ​a bird​ ​calling​ ​to​ ​another​ ​bird.​ ​The​ ​piano​ ​reacted​ ​to​ ​my​ ​violin’s​ ​call​ ​and​ ​the​ ​instruments​ ​had​ ​a​ ​little conversation.​ ​At​ ​this​ ​point,​ ​my​ ​mind​ ​was​ ​at​ ​ease.​ ​I​ ​felt​ ​this​ ​way​ ​when​ ​I​ ​was​ ​next​ ​to​ ​my grandmother’s​ ​deathbed.​ ​I​ ​had​ ​just​ ​gotten​ ​out​ ​of​ ​my​ ​first​ ​volleyball​ ​tryouts​ ​for​ ​High​ ​School.​ ​Me and​ ​my​ ​cousin​ ​were​ ​picked​ ​up​ ​and​ ​driven​ ​to​ ​our​ ​grandma’s​ ​apartment​ ​and​ ​had​ ​to​ ​say​ ​our​ ​final farewells​ ​since​ ​she​ ​had​ ​passed​ ​away​ ​earlier​ ​that​ ​day.​ ​She​ ​looked​ ​so​ ​peaceful​ ​and​ ​pure​ ​laying​ ​in her​ ​bed,​ ​as​ ​her​ ​son,​ ​daughters,​ ​and​ ​grandchildren​ ​knelt​ ​beside​ ​her​ ​and​ ​told​ ​her​ ​how​ ​much​ ​she meant​ ​to​ ​them.​ ​Then​ ​it​ ​was​ ​my​ ​turn​ ​so​ ​I​ ​knelt​ ​down​ ​and​ ​gave​ ​her​ ​a​ ​kiss​ ​on​ ​the​ ​forehead.​ ​I​ ​held her​ ​hand​ ​for​ ​a​ ​while.​ ​Her​ ​skin​ ​was​ ​very​ ​cold​ ​but​ ​also​ ​very​ ​soft.​ ​She​ ​seemed​ ​so​ ​fragile​ ​and​ ​I​ ​was afraid​ ​to​ ​get​ ​to​ ​close​ ​but​ ​the​ ​thought​ ​of​ ​her​ ​not​ ​having​ ​to​ ​suffer​ ​more​ ​put​ ​me​ ​at​ ​ease.​ ​I​ ​finally started​ ​talking​ ​to​ ​her,​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​hold​ ​back​ ​my​ ​tears​ ​and​ ​speak​ ​as​ ​clearly​ ​as​ ​I​ ​could.​ ​This​ ​is​ ​when​ ​I finally​ ​made​ ​my​ ​promise.

The​ ​roar​ ​of​ ​the​ ​audience​ ​as​ ​I​ ​held​ ​the​ ​final​ ​note​ ​of​ ​the​ ​piece,​ ​was​ ​so​ ​captivating.​ ​I​ ​looked up​ ​and​ ​could​ ​see​ ​my​ ​brother,​ ​my​ ​aunt,​ ​my​ ​friends,​ ​and​ ​my​ ​parents​ ​all​ ​sitting​ ​in​ ​the​ ​balcony​ ​on the​ ​left​ ​side​ ​of​ ​the​ ​auditorium,​ ​tears​ ​of​ ​joy​ ​in​ ​all​ ​of​ ​their​ ​eyes​ ​as​ ​they​ ​looked​ ​at​ ​me​ ​in​ ​awe​ ​after having​ ​accomplished​ ​something​ ​so​ ​great.​ ​I​ ​started​ ​tearing​ ​up​ ​a​ ​little​ ​myself​ ​as​ ​I​ ​walked backstage.​ ​I​ ​listened​ ​to​ ​rest​ ​of​ ​the​ ​concert​ ​and​ ​was​ ​so​ ​excited​ ​to​ ​see​ ​my​ ​family​ ​and​ ​friends,​ ​and ask​ ​them​ ​what​ ​they​ ​thought​ ​of​ ​my​ ​performance.​ ​My​ ​peers​ ​from​ ​orchestra​ ​ran​ ​up​ ​to​ ​me​ ​once​ ​the chorus​ ​had​ ​finished​ ​their​ ​performance.​ ​I​ ​received​ ​many​ ​positive​ ​remarks​ ​and​ ​my​ ​friends​ ​told​ ​me that​ ​they​ ​were​ ​crying​ ​through​ ​my​ ​whole​ ​performance.​ ​Once​ ​we​ ​walked​ ​outside​ ​the​ ​concert​ ​hall, I​ ​frantically​ ​started​ ​searching​ ​for​ ​my​ ​family.​ ​They​ ​were​ ​all​ ​packed​ ​in​ ​a​ ​corner​ ​near​ ​the​ ​buses:​ ​my aunt,​ ​my​ ​brother,​ ​and​ ​both​ ​my​ ​parents.​ ​I​ ​ran​ ​up​ ​to​ ​them​ ​and​ ​we​ ​all​ ​gathered​ ​together​ ​for​ ​a​ ​close group​ ​hug.​ ​That’s​ ​when​ ​my​ ​aunt​ ​told​ ​me​ ​something​ ​I​ ​would​ ​never​ ​forget.

​ ​She​ ​was​ ​in​ ​tears,​ ​not​ ​just​ ​because​ ​I​ ​played​ ​so​ ​beautifully,​ ​but​ ​also​ ​because​ ​I​ ​had​ ​finally fulfilled​ ​my​ ​promise.​ ​She​ ​remembered​ ​exactly​ ​what​ ​my​ ​final​ ​words​ ​to​ ​my​ ​grandmother​ ​were.​ ​I promised​ ​her​ ​that​ ​in​ ​my​ ​next​ ​four​ ​years​ ​of​ ​High​ ​School,​ ​I​ ​would​ ​accomplish​ ​something​ ​great; something​ ​that​ ​had​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​meaning​ ​to​ ​me;​ ​something​ ​that​ ​not​ ​many​ ​people​ ​would​ ​have​ ​the opportunity​ ​of​ ​accomplishing.​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​know​ ​if​ ​any​ ​of​ ​you​ ​believe​ ​in​ ​magic​ ​or​ ​not,​ ​but​ ​her​ ​words made​ ​me​ ​consider​ ​something​ ​quite​ ​extraordinary.​ ​My​ ​mind​ ​wasn’t​ ​consciously​ ​recalling​ ​all​ ​those memories​ ​I​ ​have​ ​just​ ​told​ ​you​ ​about.​ ​What​ ​really​ ​gave​ ​me​ ​all​ ​my​ ​courage​ ​and​ ​skill​ ​up​ ​on​ ​that stage​ ​was​ ​the​ ​fact​ ​that​ ​each​ ​of​ ​these​ ​moments​ ​directly​ ​contributed​ ​to​ ​this​ ​major accomplishment​ ​and​ ​that​ ​they​ ​all​ ​led​ ​directly​ ​to​ ​the​ ​relationship​ ​I​ ​had​ ​with​ ​my​ ​grandma.​ ​I​ ​didn’t just​ ​sign​ ​up​ ​to​ ​audition​ ​for​ ​the​ ​solo​ ​for​ ​just​ ​any​ ​reason.​ ​There​ ​was​ ​a​ ​little​ ​voice​ ​in​ ​my​ ​head​ ​that had​ ​encouraged​ ​me​ ​to​ ​do​ ​so.​ ​That​ ​little​ ​voice​ ​was​ ​with​ ​me​ ​for​ ​years​ ​as​ ​I​ ​was​ ​practicing​ ​my​ ​violin all​ ​these​ ​years.​ ​That​ ​voice​ ​was​ ​with​ ​me​ ​up​ ​until​ ​the​ ​moment​ ​I​ ​walked​ ​on​ ​that​ ​stage.​ ​I​ ​honestly hadn’t​ ​even​ ​remembered​ ​exactly​ ​what​ ​it​ ​was​ ​that​ ​I​ ​had​ ​promised​ ​my​ ​grandmother​ ​3​ ​years​ ​prior, but​ ​when​ ​my​ ​aunt​ ​finally​ ​reminded​ ​me​ ​what​ ​my​ ​true​ ​motivation​ ​for​ ​the​ ​solo​ ​was,​ ​I​ ​couldn’t​ ​even think​ ​of​ ​a​ ​proper​ ​way​ ​of​ ​responding​ ​to​ ​her.​ ​Her​ ​spirit​ ​definitely​ ​still​ ​lives​ ​on​ ​with​ ​me​ ​and​ ​every person​ ​who​ ​had​ ​the​ ​pleasure​ ​of​ ​knowing​ ​her​ ​but​ ​that​ ​day​ ​specifically,​ ​was​ ​when​ ​I​ ​felt​ ​like​ ​we had​ ​the​ ​greatest​ ​connection.

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