Years ago –wow! about half a century ago, now that I think of it — I drove a friend, Leslie Isle, to USC, where she was auditioning for a full scholarship for a graduate degree in piano performance. There were five candidates who played in order determined by drawing straws (or something like that). A few of us family and friends sat in a room beside the one where they played. We got to hear five wonderful performances of the third movement of Beethoven’s “Appasionata” piano sonata. And we knew that we would then have to wait as much as a week to hear the results.
I had known Leslie for several years and had always thought she was an outstanding pianist, even allowing for the fact that I was prejudiced in her favor. This was a unique opportunity to compare her playing to that of other excellent pianists.
The first candidate played and I was immediately worried. His performance was outstanding and certainly equaled that of some recordings I had heard. Suddenly I was a bit worried for Leslie. The second played and sounded just as good. In fact, to my puzzlement, he sounded exactly the same as the first. And so did the third and fourth pianists. They were all good and I simply couldn’t distinguish one from the other. All I knew was that dear Leslie was in very fine company, maybe too much for a girl from our little, out of the way hometown.
And then she played. I cannot describe what happened except to say that the twenty or so folk with me in the side room immediately snapped to attention. It was like electricity had been shot through the room. It took only a matter of seconds before we were all murmuring. There was no doubt that we were hearing something extraordinary, full of life and brimming with energy.
Shortly after finishing, Leslie emerged from the audition, slightly flushed. We walked out of the building in silence, got in the car in silence. I sat for a moment, knowing she must have something to say. Very quietly but firmly she said, “I got it.”
The judges had broken protocol and, without even discussing the matter among themselves, simply informed Leslie on the spot that the scholarship was hers.
One of the greatest joys of growing old is that our storehouse of happy memories just gets stuffed full. . .