Crisp, painfully smooth sheets of paper sit on your stand for the first time. Notes and patterns now unfamiliar, exotic, exciting, that you’ll soon be able to sing backwards and trace out from memory.
You stutter through the phrases, stopping every now and again to examine the ink. Scratches and incoherent marks appear on the fresh page that mean nothing to anyone else but map out a routine, a journey, in your head.

The arrogant, relentless snap of the metronome pushes you forwards as you trip over the runs. Patterns slowly emerge through the music taking place. As you pack away, aching with the satisfaction of work well done, one phrase lodges itself in your head and circles around, kindling the excitement of coming back and working on something new for tomorrow.

You stumble into awakening and are warming up your fingers, rippling through scales before your mind has stopped sleeping. You’re rubbing your eyes and squinting at your stand long after dark, rolling your shoulders back to push away the fatigue for another half hour. Slowly, slowly, amongst the frustrated yells, triumphant air punching, maniacal tapping of rhythms and phrases every waking moment and relentless repetition, a piece of music is forming. Finally, the enjoyment of flying through the pages and knowing roughly what you’re doing thrills you.

It’s only two weeks away! You clench your fists and clamp back a yell at the page as you play the same mistake for what feels like the millionth time. You know every crevice of the music inside and out, but everything has lost that initial spark with the obsession of perfection. You take a breath and move away, to come back in a clearer mind and work through it slowly until the final puzzle pieces fall into place.

At last, the day has arrived. An odd mixture of serenity at your knowledge of the music and blind panic fearing nerves and mistakes settles over you, and your head buzzes with it in the background of every other like-minded performance. You glance down at the programme every six seconds to count how many pieces there are to go before you’re on. The inevitable call of your name catches your ears and you plaster a calm smile on your face as your mind starts freaking. You wipe your hands on your sides a thousand times as you settle your music and open the page. Chin lifted. Shoulders back. Fingers tingling. Deep breath…