My concept of “success” is constantly being challenged. A story I frequently tell, quite often as a reminder to myself of what success is and is not, goes like this:

“Barbara” is a woman who functions with various disabilities, both mental and physical. She is small in stature and big in personality. I got to know Barbara especially well while I was working at Sanctuary. We would take half an hour each Wednesday drop-in to sit at the piano where I would teach her how to hold her hands and what notes were created by which keys.

Fast forward a few years. Now working at PNC, I was excited to see Barbara walk through the doors one night for an Open Stage. Barbara decided to add her name to the list of people who wanted to perform. Our MC for the event introduced Barbara and invited her to the keyboard. Barbara took center-stage where she stood for an uncomfortable amount of time staring at a piece of sheet music. She would alternate holding it millimeters from her eyes to a few feet in front of her. I held my breath. Finally she sat down and put the music on the stand. Relaxed, she raised her right hand and proceeded to play ONE NOTE. Barbara stood triumphantly and said into the microphone, “I’d like to thank my piano teacher Erinn”.

As a piano teacher I am most often preparing students for exams at the Royal Conservatory of Music. I would be remiss to consider doing an exam the only form of success. It comes in learning to enjoy an instrument, in trying your best even when it is hard, in making your very own music. Barbara is a sweet example of this.

That night we applauded Barbara’s courage to get up and share. I’ve never seen a single key played with such great flair. What a note.