No More Jitters for Jordan

by Marieke Steiner

Jordan’s nerves jangled whenever he thought about his upcoming school String Orchestra Concert.

The orchestra had rehearsed on stage, and Jordan knew his violin solo by heart. But he was still worried about performing in front of an audience. What if I get up there and freeze? What if I play out of tune? What if I mess up, fall, or trip on stage?

“You’ll be fine,” his mother insisted. “You just have a mild case of stage fright, that’s all. The jitters.”

“Really?” Jordan could barely get the word out due to the lump forming in his throat. “Did you ever get nervous when you had to get up in front of a group?”

“Of course. I played in a pit orchestra. I called it the pit not because of our spot in the pit underneath the stage, but because of the giant pit I had in my stomach before every show.”

Jordan felt better knowing that about his mom. She pulled the car up to the school auditorium to let him out. “Break a leg!” she said.

”Break a leg? Huh? What?"

“That’s a musical theater expression for good luck. Now go on,” she urged, smiling.

It was loud in the orchestra room backstage with the cellos, basses, violas, and violins all warming up at the same time. Jordan tried to concentrate on his sound while tuning his violin. The discord of the instruments blocked out his nervous thoughts. He didn’t want to stop bowing his violin because he was afraid someone might ask him if he was ready for his solo. What would he say? Would he ever be ready?

When the performers were all assembled on stage, the house lights dimmed and the crowd grew quiet. The director made a brief introduction to the parents over the microphone. The orchestra members settled into their seats, and the conductor stepped onto the podium. When Mr. Briscoe held up his baton, the rustling of programs and low chatter in the hall ceased, and the musicians’ eyes all focused on their leader. Someone in the audience coughed. With the baton’s downward wave, the auditorium resonated with the strains of “Allegro,” the last movement of Haydn’s Symphony No. 88.

It was a lively and upbeat piece; no one missed a cue, the second violins kept pace, the basses didn’t overpower, and the phrasing and dynamics were precise. Everyone even finished together. “Good!” Mr. Briscoe mouthed soundlessly when they finished. His baton stayed suspended in mid-air while a hush fell over the audience.

When the baton dropped to the conductor’s side, thunderous applause erupted in the auditorium. Jordan sighed. It was the best they had ever played together. He was stoked. The director took a bow, credited his fine music students, and introduced the next selection while a stagehand moved Jordan’s music stand to face front. Jordan took a deep breath. Show them what you can do, he thought. You’ve got this.

When Mr. Briscoe gave him the thumbs-up, Jordan made his way to the spotlight. It was so dark, he couldn’t identify anyone in the crowd. He closed his eyes, lifted his bow, and began to play his solo from memory. It was an excerpt from the “Palladio,” a modern composition by Karl Jenkins. With his back to the director and the rest of the orchestra, Jordan could feel them rooting for him with every note he played. It wasn’t any different from playing in front of his class, or his family. As he’d done so many times before, he concentrated on the music until it was just him and his violin playing as one, bringing out the best in each other. When Jordan hit his third set of ascending 32nd notes in the solo perfectly, he knew he had nailed it.

When the piece was over and Jordan put his instrument down, the crowd rose to its feet, clapping and cheering, as he’d never heard before. “Bravo!” they yelled. Someone whistled. It was all for him. Mr. Briscoe shook his hand and whispered, “That was flawless!” Jordan took a bow before exiting stage right where his family waited. It had been hot under the lights and he was sweating. He loosened his bowtie and took off his tuxedo jacket. His mom kissed him on the cheek and told him how awesome he was. “You got a standing ovation!” she exclaimed.

His dad hugged him. “I’m proud of you, son,” he said. “That was a fantastic performance.”

Even his little brother, Matthew, congratulated him. “You played with goose-toes!” he said.

Goose-toes? Huh? What?

“He means you played with gusto,” his mom said. “It’s Italian for great energy or feeling.”

Jordan gave Matthew a high-five. “I like ‘goose-toes’ better,” he said, and grinned broadly. “Since I learned that geese have toes, that is.”

Story Copyright by Marieke Steiner
You Tube - Haydn’s Symphony No. 88.
(completed in 1787)
You Tube - Karl Jenkins - Palladio,
a modern composition (1995)

Absolute Background Textures Archive

violin -

Back to Top

Short Story