Jing-mei tells us that her mother arranged for her to take piano lessons from a man named Old Chong. Old Chong may have been a solid piano teacher at one point, but his eyes and ears are not as sharp as they once were. He claims that he is deaf like Beethoven, and for a while Jing-mei believes that he is keeping track of her errors by sight. She quickly discovers that his eyesight isn't good enough to keep up with the music and her fingers at the same time. All of this combined to teach Jing-mei to be lazy about her piano practices. She knew that she was hitting wrong notes; however, she never found it worthwhile to correct them. She figured there was no point because Old Chong didn't know the difference anyway.
Eventually, Old Chong and Jing-mei's mother plan for her to play piano at a talent show. Jing-mei went into the performance with a great deal of lackadaisical overconfidence. She is more excited about her dress and doing a fancy curtsy than she is about actually playing in front of an audience. Jing-mei flat out tells readers that when her turn came she was full of "childish excitement" and very confident. She fully believes that she is going to give a fantastic performance. She isn't nervous. She isn't scared. Jing-mei believes that the child prodigy really does exist within her, and that is why she is so shocked and surprised when she hits the first incorrect note:
I was so caught up in how lovely I looked that I wasn't worried about how I would sound. So I was surprised when I hit the first wrong note.