2009 Spring Newsletter

Message from the Chair

W. Terrence SpillerI had an interesting onstage experience recently, while playing my annual solo piano recital at the Spanos Theatre at Cal Poly. I started the second half with a short work by Ravel, and about five seconds into the piece, I realized that something was amiss. I could see fine out of one eye, but the other was blurred. I wondered if something was wrong with me physically—was I having a dizzy spell? Or (egad!) a stroke? Fortunately, I was able to continue through the Ravel because I had memorized the recital repertory.

Afterward, I turned to the audience to make some preparatory remarks about the next (and larger work) by Bartók. I wasn’t short of breath, and my head didn’t ache, so I figured that I was going to be okay—the moment had passed. I absent-mindedly started to clean my glasses as I spoke, and realized … that one lens had popped out! No medical emergency, no disaster—just a missing lens (which, I’m happy to say, turned out to be in my coat pocket). So, thanks to the memorized music, I finished the rest of the program without incident.

This experience underscores the importance of four lessons I learned long ago. One: always be as prepared as possible. Two: make sure that you can see, so that you can try and anticipate what’s coming. Three: don’t be surprised when anything happens. Four: always keep on going, because, somehow, something will work out. These four lessons serve well not only on stage, but also in life, especially in our turbulent times. In fact, these lessons support my perpetual optimism.

Oh, and there’s a fifth lesson: take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Six minutes of squinting on stage and giving the front rows “the fisheye” was all the reminder I needed for that one! And the sixth lesson? Take care of your eyeglasses!

W. Terrence Spiller, Chair