Whenever You're Ready
It is about thirty minutes before the concert begins, and I am standing in the greenroom in Carnegie Hall. The notion of time seems to be distorted at this moment, as if the weight of a tick on a clock is much slower and heavier in this room. I have imagined this moment millions of times in my head, and now that it’s a reality, I am not quite sure exactly what I am feeling.
In some ways, it feels like a dream. Am I dreaming? I pinch myself. Of course not. I am fully awake. When I look at myself in the mirror, it’s as if I am looking at someone I don’t know. Then I start to talk to myself. “You are loved. You are loving. People in the audience are there to receive what music gives them. You are excited, and they are excited. The space is full of love, and you don’t have to do anything more than just become a vessel for the music. The music will speak for itself. You are grateful for this very moment. Now, Jeeyoon, go out to the stage, smile, and play as if this is your last concert and your last day. You have only this moment. Live it fully. You are more than enough.”
During most of my time in the greenroom, I am doing breathing exercises and repeating those sentences to myself. Then, after reciting a quick “thank you” prayer to God, I give my reflection in the mirror a big smile and walk toward the stage door.
One minute before 7:30 p.m., I hear the chatting noises from the audience fading into the background.
A stage manager who looks to be about sixty-five smiles at me and says gently, “Whenever you’re ready.”
But am I ready? I feel the usual butterflies in my stomach, a familiar sensation in my body every time before a concert.
Without making any judgment of whether this is good or bad, I close my eyes and focus on the excitement and courage coming from somewhere deep within me. As the stage guy holds the door open, I look at him and nod.
Then, there it is: the beautiful stage with shining chandeliers and the cheerful clapping of the audience. The magic of music is about to begin.
The Tools in my book, “Whenever You’re Ready”
As a pianist, I am often asked what it is like to be on a stage like Carnegie Hall, what it is like to be a pianist on any stage, or behind the stage in my daily life. Many people think I have a special “talent,” as if I were born with the skill for what I do. To be honest, I wish I had a magic potion I could whip out every time I give a concert, so that I could play any piece I like without thousands of hours of practice, and could perform without feeling jittery nerves in public. But there is no such potion, and the reality is quite the opposite. Being onstage never does get easier over time, and performing always feels raw and new, requiring my whole being to be exposed and vulnerable all over again.
As a teacher, I strongly believe that we make progress over time, with a deliberate practice. Because of my own personal trials and errors for the past twenty years of performing, practicing, and teaching, one thing has become much more clear now: Being a pianist never gets easier, but it is beautiful that way. There’s no need to sugarcoat it or, conversely, become frustrated, as it will always be difficult; rather, learn to dance with the storm, believing that the storm is strengthening our souls.
In this book, I will share all of the tools that I employ behind the scenes to deal with my career as a pianist. I realized what I’ve discovered over the years is not only useful for a concert pianist, but also for life in general. Being a musician has helped me shape my life, and I’ve come to see that these tools are valuable to everyone. If I can do it, you can do it too.
The stage of life
Whether we have piano keys before us or not, we’re all on a stage called life. This is a book for whoever wants to be more equipped on the stage of life and develop tools to be more of the person s/he is meant to be, and perhaps gain that little bit more courage and strength to walk toward the crowds when it is time to perform. I would walk with you in the spirit as you go through life and give you that sense of hope. This book has its place between you and the stage door of your life with tools that may help your performance …
“Whenever you’re ready.”
Just a few weeks away
I am counting days until my book is released to the world on August 24. Just like preparing to give a concert, I excitedly await my journey with you through the words. The book will be available everywhere you would buy any book and you can order the booknow. I also recorded an audiobook and it will be available at Audible. If you want to buy the autographed copy, please get it through here. I can’t wait to meet you there!