The musicians at the Affinis Music Festival along with members of the Yamagata Symphony became the "AIUE" Orchestra to perform a children's concert this morning. "AIUE" seemed liked a strange name to me until someone explained that it is the first letters of the Japanese alphabet, akin to English's "ABC."
As part of the concert, the conductor invited two children to the stage to have a turn conducting part of the Prelude to Carmen, an fast, excited piece. They stood on the side of the stage, getting a few instructions and being interviewed before their experience; both were nervous. The boy went first and started the orchestra with a huge, slow downbeat. Unlike these experiences I've had in America, the orchestra actually followed him. We went along slowly for 16 measures or so, almost falling apart at one point, and not playing the final stinger until the conductor told him it wasn't finished yet. He did it, everyone applauded him, and despite his fear and shaky ending, he bowed to the audience, then turned and bowed to the orchestra, thanking us for the experience.
The next conductor was so nervous that it seemed she was afraid to actually go through with it. "What should we do?" the conductor asked the host of the program. She replied to him and the little girl, "Conducting is really fun, let's all take a big breath together," and the whole audience and orchestra took a breath in and released it with her and the conductor held her hand and they walked to the podium. As he had with the boy before her, he instructed her to say, "Would you please?" to the orchestra, and let her begin. Despite her fear, there was a finality to all her gestures, a strong endpoint to every stroke. There was a naturalness to her movements, something she surely had no awareness of possessing. She finished and bowed to the audience, having overcome something terrifying.
It was a lesson in humility and gratitude in the midst of discomfort; a lesson in pushing through for the sake of what one can give to others. I learned something from both of these children and neither knows it. How many people do we touch even as we doubt ourselves? And what can we give by encouraging others to overcome their fears?