“My eyes are almost blinded by the bright stage lights as I squint into the audience. I'm not looking for anyone in particular. I'm just trying to get my bearings. On stage with me to my left is the entire Seattle Symphony Orchestra and to my right a packed concert hall. There is a violin and bow in my hands, and I'm wearing a set of tails, white tie and black patent leather shoes. I have done this a thousand times, but a sweaty wave of dread is washing through me as the house lights begin to dim. My mind won't let it go, and I'm panicking once again, what the hell am I doing here?
In the printed program my name is titled “Assistant Concertmaster” which seems to indicate I know something about playing the violin, how to make the bow go back and forth, and how to play the notes up and down the fingerboard. The violin does feel familiar, but a force is pulling me back in time, back into a horrific nightmare. My shoulders stiffen as my thoughts dredge back to the events of so many years ago. I grasp my violin tightly to know it's still there, and grip my bow so that it doesn't drop to the floor.
Even as my body goes faint I am somehow able to exorcise the dark power that possesses me, and rejoin my fellow musicians in the present moment. The audience is applauding the entrance of the conductor and I try to join with the smiling faces as we all settle in to begin the concert.
The panic passes for the most part as the music swells, and I try to relax into the rapture of playing some of the world's greatest music. My heart pulses with the music's rhythm, but it also pounds with the deep fulfillment I feel playing the violin in a great symphony orchestra. I cherish each note with vibrato and sing through every phrase as if it's the last music I'll ever play.
There was a time in fact that I had played my last note.
It's impossible that I'm on this stage. It's impossible that I'm playing the violin at all.”