Evie’s school always has a summer festival, just before the end of the year. An email was sent out in preparation, and it included this sentence:
We also need musicians to play for the cake-walk – if anyone plays guitar, banjo or (my first choice) accordion please let me know.
My first impression was to wonder if Evie had somehow put her teacher up to this. As an accordion player, I think it is safe to say that your services are very rarely asked for, much less begged for. On one hand, I seemed WAY under qualified to play for someone. On the other hand, it seemed very unlikely they would find another accordion player, and it seemed like I just *couldn’t* ignore an email like that.
When I got to school on Monday morning, I cornered the teacher. “I have to ask you a question; why specifically an accordion for the cake walk?”
She laughed. “It’s just such a fun instrument, so much more fun than a guitar! My uncle used to play and we would just sit out on the porch and listen. We always had a good time.”
I couldn’t deny her those reasons. “Well, it turns out that I actually play accordion…”
And so, I soon found myself playing the pied piper to hordes of kids around a cake walk.
Maybe it wasn’t quite so simple as it sounds. I was really reluctant to agree, and there was a little arm twisting involved. I really just couldn’t imagine playing my limited repertoire of beginner songs for anybody. But they had an answer for each of my excuses; “They’re only kids, they won’t know any better!” “They just get their cake and leave, nobody’s going to hear more than a few songs!” and “Even a bad accordion is better than a boring old guitar!”
I picked my 7 best “tunes” (calling them songs would be hopelessly optimistic) and practiced nothing but those 7 until I had them cold. Even still, I would usually make a mistake or two each time through. Even worse, the tunes were usually only 15 seconds or so, which meant I would have to loop them to get a good length. With only 7 songs, this would mean an endless repetition that would be sure to drive any adult who was stuck listening absolutely crazy.
To my relief and amazement, it actually went way better than I could have guessed.
First off, I never really felt nervous. I kept expecting to feel nervous, and I joked about being nervous, because that’s what you do, but I never felt even the least bit of dread or butterflies. I guess I truly and finally have transcended the ability to embarrass myself in public.
Second off, I didn’t think about how loud and chaotic the whole place was. I assumed the sound would carry through the whole place, until all the adults were fighting to bury their heads under pillows and whatnot. In fact, it was barely loud enough to cover the cake walk area. This was definitely the first time I wished my accordion could be louder.
Finally, I think perhaps I didn’t give myself, or the accordion in general, enough credit. I made very few mistakes (again, these were very simple songs). Also, I think the accordion is a fantastic instrument in terms of making you look good. Despite what you may have heard about the accordion, it is hard to strike a sour note. Even basic proficiency like mine sounds grand and impressive, and most people don’t know enough about accordion to know that what I was playing was pretty simple. And lastly, for a cake walk, 15 – 30 second songs are actually pretty appropriate. Even if I knew a lot more songs, I still might have stuck to the same selection. Simple ditties just worked better, and this was one of the few times and places where “Mary Had a Little Lamb” was not only appropriate, but appreciated!
I ended up only playing 5 of my 7 songs because I didn’t trust playing the other two without looking at the sheet music and it was a little too windy for that. On the upside, I looked way cooler just playing off the top of my head, but on the downside, it did really start to get repetitive towards the end. There were maybe 30 or so cakes, so I played each song a dozen or so times (remember, I was playing them twice around each time). Yeah, I could have used a few more songs.
We had started off doing it musical chairs style, but we quickly realized that would take too long. However, because we had started that way, all the kids were convinced they had to dart for a chair the second the music stopped, despite there being enough chairs for every kid. This meant that if I ever hesitated or made even the slightest mistake, all the kids would immediately dive for a chair, thoroughly highlighting my mistake.
All in all, I thought it went really well. At least nobody was mocking me openly. Later, someone even told me I had done well, and he had seen me “showing off” by playing with only one hand. I took that for a sign that I had successfully hoodwinked them into thinking I was much better than I actually was, “showing off” rather than “displaying a tremendous lack of ability and creativity”. And really, what better to strive for in life?