Herbie Hancock performed on piano with the Chicago symphony at age 11, Buddy Rich began playing drums at 18-months and was a bandleader by age 11, Harry Connick Jr. recorded with a local jazz band at age 10 and Stevie Wonder signed with Motown at 11.
Six-year-old JP has a piano recital tonight at school. I don't think I'm ready for this; he says he is. I've asked him a dozen times if he's ready to play the piano in front of people and he assures me he's all set. But I'm not sure I'm prepared to watch my little boy trying to do his best in front of a crowd.
Truth is, I have no idea if he can play. He's been taking lessons this school year, but I don't even know if he can perform a whole song or not. He plays at home sometimes, but it's on an out-of-tune instrument I inherited from my grandmother. I don't know if it's him that sounds awful or the piano itself.
Last night, though, I was sitting outside with a cocktail after coming home from work and Kristy came out to tell me that JP was inside composing music. I went in to find him sitting at the piano, which was closed up, and writing notes on a piece of paper.
I watched him as he began furiously erasing a line of letters with his nub of a pencil and sliver of eraser. I know squat about the making of music, so the only thing I could offer him was a decent, well-sharpened pencil.
I asked why he was erasing those notes. "They'll be better on the right side," he said.
"Playing it with your right hand?"
"Yeah, it'll sound better."
He never did play it. Whatever he had going on was in his own little head. Hopefully it was good. And, hopefully, he'll do well tonight and the mistakes he'll make and embarrassment he'll feel are only in my head.