05/16/2013 05:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

From Starlet to Stage Frightened Target

I was one of those annoying kids that are always in first line at every school performance. Basically I needed and wanted to be the super-star in any kind of dance, recital or gym demonstration because I liked to show off my talent (or lack thereof) and how I could do this, that and the other without the slightest fear of being judged. I was confident and proud of it.

From being Baby Jesus in the live reenactment of the nativity in pre-school, to representing an essential component of a ribbon number in a gymnastics sketch a few years later, I always managed to get the best part -- as well as the hate of every single classmate.


Please notice the resemblance between me... And Baby Jesus, basically switched at birth!

In fourth grade my school organized an open air show consisting of the usual dancing and singing acts. Not only was I co-hosting the event, I was also in every single back choir of every song, in a bunch of dances and, of course, I had my solo singing act. That's when things got complicated. The reality check began the first day of rehearsal. At the time I was playing the piano like crazy and I actually thought I was going to go somewhere with it. On the first day of rehearsal, the band of 20-somethings that were accompanying our singing enlightenments made me understand that I was as talented a singer as Beethoven probably was at the top of his excellence: I sang like a deaf person and there was no way anybody besides a deaf person could appreciate my performance.

In a general environment of stubbornness, I proceeded to go solo on stage anyway, with a wonderful '90s mushroom haircut and a great amount of stress that resulted in a nervous tic (yes, a nervous tic at nine years old) that made me turn up my nose every two seconds, literally. What happened that night was recorded on a tape that is now somewhere at my parents' house. The aforementioned tape meant the first real, horrible and traumatizing reality check of my childhood: my voice was a disaster and my nose was turning up in every sequence, maybe to sniff and capture the fragrance of the hairspray that I kept spreading around from the top of my naturally frizzy but straightened bob-cut.

That particular event, though, didn't stop me from taking part in other wonderful activities like acting, dancing and performing with my piano whenever I could. Sure, I couldn't sing, but there were another million things I could do to make myself look ridiculous in front of a big crowd and under the input of a handful of cynical teachers.

Then something happened: with junior high, the capability I had of showing off during any occasion I had... dissolved, less and less dancing moves were part of my daily routine and, above all, I couldn't stand the idea of anybody hearing me play the piano. By the time I reached high school, I wasn't able to perform anymore. My hands twitched and my saliva disappeared every time someone asked me to play something.

The afternoon I found out one of my neighbors was secretly listening to me practicing, my day was ruined. I went on the balcony and the guy who lived across from us asked me to play Michael Nyman's "The Heart Asks Pleasure First," one more time. From that moment, I was never able to nail that piece, ever again, not even by my family or close friends, without making some stupid mistake that I normally didn't do.

The reason why I actually stopped taking piano classes is not that I realized I was never going to be the next Chopin. It happened about four years ago, I was asked to perform some Chopin in my teacher's living room for an afternoon tea with a bunch of strangers. Needless to say, I made a fool out of myself. Chopin turned in his grave and his name resounded on the lips of every single piano player in the world as I let my fingers slip over that F sharp and my saliva evaporated from my semi-open mouth. Two weeks later I was supposed to execute that same piece again, this time in a famous musical building downtown, by an actual audience. Thank God my awkwardness helped me by making me fall on my hands in some bar three days before the humiliation. That was the last time I ever heard from my piano teacher. "I fell on my hands," I claimed with satisfaction, "I won't be able to play." I added with a sigh of relief.