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Tori Amos, "The day I auditioned at the Peabody..."
from Upside Down (Tori Amos Fan Club magazine) - April 1993
I was 5 years old and I remember my mother opening the closet to pull out this mint green dress for me to audition in. It had been hand-embroidered by one of the ladies in the church and it had little red fruit stitched on it. They could have been cranberries, or they could have been anything... maybe the fruit doesn't really exist, how she embroidered it. You know, like cherries growing out of the ground, one of those things. Anyway, there were these little embroiders and I remember having this dress on because it itched. It was the best dress I had. I had nice dresses then because these little old ladies in the church would make them for me and there were ducks on them and stuff...
I can't remember what day of the week it was, I sense it was a Saturday but I can't be sure. I wore black patent leather shoes... and we went. This is when we lived in Baltimore, Maryland, my dad had a ministry at a church there. I know it wasn't the summer because I would have been in North Carolina, so it would have either been the fall or spring because it was warm. We went, my father, mother and me. My brother and sister stayed home.
I remember getting it ready... what to play. They asked for a range of music. My father wanted me to play something American, not American... patriotic. Don't ask me, he was in the Navy. I had been listening to the Beatles and loads of musicals. I knew all the big musicals, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Sound of Music, you know... all those. My mother had a record collection, so she had all the shows and lots of classics from Nat King Cole to Cole Porter. She had all those records because she had worked at a record store before she became a minister's wife. She had hundreds of records and kept them all those years. My mother kept everything... I am really thankful she had that habit. You know how people 'get on' people who keep everything, but then if she hadn't, I would have been an organist at a church somewhere. Well, I'd probably be dead because I would have played myself to sleep one night and never woken up with the pipes.
That is how I learned, plus my brother was 10 years older than me... he would bring home records. That is how I got contemporary influence. You know, when you are 10 years older and it was the 60s. This was 1968, so my brother was like 15 years old. He was really into music, he had been playing guitar since he was 12 years old. So, he was a big influence in the music area. My sister was the intelligence of the family. She is 6 years older than I am. She is a doctor, but she has the mind of a scientist, so she wasn't interested in music or anything like that.
Back to the story... Anyway, I remember getting together my repertoire and feeling like this was a really big deal. You know when you are a little kid, imagine when trying out for little league or something. You know that your life could change if you got this thing, whatever it was. I sensed that maybe these people would understand where I was going and we could all make music together. It could be like the greatest fun that ever was... I played for hours a day by then. That's what I did. I didn't play with dolls, I had these wooden creatures that I put on top of the piano and I played to them.
So, we went to the Peabody. The Peabody is still in Baltimore. I drove past it actually when I did my last 2 Baltimore shows near the end of last year. I think it was November, but back to the story... We went in. It's like an old Greek style, classical type building with big wooden doors, marble and everything... a building that tries to look important. In a sense it is important if that means something to you. If you are a Dead Head it wouldn't mean much to you. My Dead Head friends all kind of feel sorry for me and they wish they could have given me a mushroom or something. I went in at 5 years old looking at all this marble going up the steps, marble floors, the walls are marble and it has very high ceilings. I was listening to all these people practicing up and down the floors and some of them were playing the same piece. That didn't dawn on me... that's another story we will do later on, how everybody eventually pretty much plays the same thing. It just went in and out of my consciousness. I felt that my parents were kind of nervous. I wasn't nervous because at 5 years old, you really don't know how to be nervous. You don't understand that you are going for a scholarship and that your parents couldn't afford it... well, I didn't at the time.
They ushered me into this room and there were about 5 teachers there. I just remember sitting down at the piano and them asking me to play a melody. I remember playing about 15 minutes. I did the Grand Old Flag because my father wanted something patriotic. I did excerpts from The Sound Of Music and a few other things I can't remember. See, my feet didn't touch the floor yet but I played naturally with both hands at that time. I had been playing that way as long as I can remember. I knew I did well because my parents took me to my favorite restaurant. I had mustard on my french fries which is one of my favorite things. I remember I was being accepted it seemed, I caught a glimpse of so many feelings in one glance. I knew that my life was going to change. I knew I would be exposed to things I never would have before. That meant good and bad, but I didn't understand what the good and bad was. That was the day I auditioned.
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