Piano

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When I was about 12, I briefly studied piano with a creepy, bearded guy (not that the beard made him creepy, but it’s the one thing I remember about him, other than his bizarrely long, nicotine-stained fingers and the fact that he had this absolutely awful pedophile vibe). That did not last long, because we moved to another part of town where cheap piano lessons were not to be found (mostly because I was busy doing other things, like speech team and band, but possibly also because I didn’t want to deal with another weirdo trying to look down my shirt while I poked out a scale on the keyboard). I loved the piano, though, and kept playing throughout the years. But I am mostly self-taught, which is not always a good thing. In some instances – piano perhaps being one of them – it is advisable to have a teacher to critique and guide and encourage you.

S9 started taking lessons from a wonderful, non-creepy teacher last March.  Shortly after she began, I happened to mention my own small experience with piano, and the teacher happened to mention that she had another adult student, and it just became obvious that I should become her student, too.  Aside from a desire to improve my meager skills, it seemed like a good example to set for the kids, who are being forced to endure their own music lessons.  I am such a horrible, mean mom, making them do something so awful as playing music.

So the teacher and I started last June.  We began with some easier classical pieces that, after several months of work, I can say are no longer being absolutely butchered at the keyboard but are now, instead, only slightly maimed at each playing. The first pieces were Bach’s Gavotte from the Third English Suite and Beethoven’s Fuër Elise.  At our teacher’s Christmas party I played a version of Peter, Paul & Mary’s Gone The Rainbow.  In late December, I started working on Mozart’s Fantasy In D Minor.  I even accompanied O8 at her violin recitals the last two weekends.  Nevermind that my hands shake uncontrollably when I play in front of people.  If we are never uncomfortable, we are not learning or growing, right?

I still have my childhood piano.  It is a modest spinet, not a super-high-quality instrument, but she’s served her purpose without complaint over the years, and it’s hard to part with her.

Nancy Hart
My childhood piano, a Nancy Hart spinet by the Grand Piano Co. We just call her Nancy.

But on Christmas Eve, my husband took us out to choose a beautiful, marvelous new piano, which was delivered two days later.  So now we have not one, but two pianos in our living room.

George Steck
Our new piano, a George Steck. We call him… wait for it… George.

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I love that, at any given moment of the day, someone is usually playing something on one of the keyboards.   Even O8, who is not interested in piano lessons at all, plays daily.

There’s no moral to this story, other than perhaps you’re never too old to learn something all over again.

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And that music is for everyone, even cats.

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This Old Dog Relearns an Old Trick

Long, long ago (which, in my inner monologue, used to be followed by “in a galaxy far, far away” but now conjures up a mental performance of this tune thanks to my Suzuki-violin-playing children), I played the piano.

I was not particularly good at piano, but I wasn’t bad, either, especially if you consider that I pretty much taught myself.  I did take lessons for a couple of years, but my teacher was uninspired and uninspiring (and probably a pedophile, a word I didn’t know at the time but he SKEEVED ME OUT even at age 13, so it’s very likely.)  Many years of band had taught me how to read music, and I used that to figure out some Christmas songs and some popular tunes (like selections from the Peter, Paul and Mary songbook and Phantom of the Opera).  I even learned how to play Für Elise, though mostly incorrectly.  At least it was recognizable, albeit painful to listen to if you knew anything about Beethoven.

S9 has been taking lessons since earlier this year, and we like her teacher very, very much.  At a recent lesson, it came up that N had two adult students.  And it occurred to me that, since I was spending all this time at a piano lesson, anyway, maybe I ought to revisit my old instrument.  I still poke at it periodically, and have learned the piano accompanyment parts to O7’s violin pieces to help her practice.  So N agreed to take me on as a student.

My first lesson was Friday.  I practiced daily for nearly two weeks to get the rusty joints of my fingers able to move properly.  I played some scales, dusted off Für Elise and a Bach Gavotte, and worked through Book 1 of the Thompson Piano book. All my work meant simply that I did not humiliate myself at N’s piano.

She was very kind and pointed out some glaring errors (mostly fingerings, but also a few technical mistakes) in the Beethoven and suggested I practice at a very slow tempo the two sections I was having the most difficulty with.  We ran through the Bach and she suggested the same.  She also went over scales, chords and arpeggios.  I knew what those were but did not have the proper fingerings for them.  This week, I’ll need to practice C major and chromatic scales over four octaves, two hands, five times a day.  Carpal tunnel, here I come!  😉