Bad at Bows…My Most Embarrassing Moment


It’s time.

I survived a weekend of concerts and managed not to panic. Panic over what, you ask? Surely you’ve played enough concerts not to be nervous!

True. I have. It’s not the music I get nervous about. It’s the bows.

I am finally going to blog about my most embarrassing moment, my origin story as a musician who fears bows and a pastor’s wife who fails at hugs.

Flashback to summer 2018. Through my choral network in Southern California, I managed to secure a dream gig: accompanying an honor choir directed by Eric Whitacre, featuring Avi Kaplan.

I couldn’t believe that not only had I secured the gig, I was being paid for it. Jubilant, I practiced Whitacre’s “Animal Crackers” and “Seal Lullaby” relentlessly. When we finally performed together, it was a highlight in my young life as a collaborative pianist.


Roaring applause. Eric gestured to me to bow, which I did. The applause continued, he gestured again, and I bowed again.

“Wow,” I thought as I took my second bow. “He must really have liked working with me!”

Eric gestured again, this time taking a step toward me. He couldn’t possibly want me to bow again, could he? Flustered, I looked at his outstretched arm.

“Oh!” I realized. “I see what he’s doing.”

Without hesitation, I went in for a hug. And not just a casual side hug: a full over-the-shoulder-around-the-neck bear hug. As I swooped in, I saw his confused (and mildly terrified) expression and realized I’d made a terrible mistake.

A terrible, irreversible mistake.

It was too late. I caught poor Eric Whitacre in a hug awkward enough to rival the Draco and Voldemort embrace of the final Harry Potter movie. Worst of all, several hundred people were watching my mistake.

I’d practiced relentlessly to avoid missed notes. It turns out that I should have been practicing reading social cues.

He was not going in for a hug. He was trying to get me to leave the stage.

Two years later, I told my now-husband this story.

“It’s terrible because I usually go for a cordial handshake,” I said. “I am not a touchy person!”

“Well,” he said, laughing, “To about a thousand people, you are! In fact, the only thing those people know about you is that you play the piano and are very free with hugs!”

So there you have it. You now know the reason I panic internally when my directors signal for me to bow and the reason I avoid initiating hugs. I clearly cannot be trusted with either.

Just before the fateful moment.
After the fateful moment. Eric Whitacre was a good sport about my mistake, but I was still cringing so hard I probably pulled a muscle.

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