How to Become Stronger

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

When I was in seventh grade, my mom, who is an acclaimed pianist, was invited to participate in the Vienna ConcertoFest, a two-week summer program to perform concertos. My mom asked me to join and participate with her at the festival. I played viola and was never exceptional at it, but how hard could two weeks of music be? I agreed to the invitation.

On the first day, I couldn't help but notice the outstanding tone and technique of the musicians in the program. I was instantly in awe. The string players produced a resonant tone and demonstrated perfect intonation. It was a sight I had never witnessed in my middle school orchestra. All of the participants in the festival, including my mom, were adept musicians, except for me. This new realization made me want to quit the program, but it was too late.

The idea of being the worst player in the program already made me feel miserable, but the coaches in the program made things worse. The private-lesson teachers I used to have were kind and avoided reproach when giving feedback, whereas the coaches in the program were forthright since they were there to help musicians whose careers depended on their performance. They rarely complimented me when I played well, and when I repeated my...

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