January 4, 2013

Long-Lost Love

I believe I started taking piano lessons when I was eight but didn't truly fall in love with the piano until my mom let me stop taking lessons two years later (go figure!).  Ever since then, I have loved playing the piano.  I'd write my own pieces.  I was at the piano a lot and probably annoyed everyone else in the house with my playing (especially my mother. Sorry mom!)

In the 8th grade I started up lessons again and this time I loved them!  I had an incredible teacher--a small, quiet, sweet woman who's piano playing abilities were nothing short of impressive and who's ability to pull "the pianist" out of her students was even more so.  I practiced all the time.  I can't say I was a prodigy or even that impressive of a player and I was certainly not a great performer (it's hard to to perform when your nervous fingers are shaking violently!) but for several years I was determined to major in piano performance at BYU.  
Who is that highly attractive 15-year-old sitting at the piano?  Oh, just me. :)

When I got to BYU, I met many students who claimed they could "sorta" play piano even though they played far better than I could?!  I was swimming in a sea of endless pianists and suddenly my talent seemed about as great as a 5-year-old who can play chopsticks on the piano.  I talked to someone who was a piano major at BYU.  Apart from being a difficult major to get into, he warned, "you will spend at least 6 hours a day in a small room in the catacombs of the HFAC (BYU's fine arts building) practicing and stressing over the piano.  It consumes you; sometimes I really detest playing the piano."  His words finalized my decision: I would major in nursing but continue to play (and enjoy playing) the piano.  I found some of the best grand pianos on campus (one of them being a Steinway in the Maeser Building, for those interested) and would sneak into the room and practice when no one was around.  It was my favorite Sunday evening activity.  

After five years at BYU, I graduated, began working, got engaged, married, and then moved to Texas, leaving behind my access to those beautiful grand pianos on BYU's campus.  Luckily, my husband had found this beauty of a keyboard (in near-perfect condition) at the dump and brought it home so that I could still play.  I was grateful to have something to play on, but after playing on Steinways, I had become somewhat of a piano snob (I had even cringed playing my parents upright piano when I came home for Christmas during college because, you know, the pianos I played on at school were soooooo much better!).  Seeing how a keyboard is definitely a few notches below even your basic piano, I had a hard time enjoying myself as I played on our keyboard. 

Fast forward to present day and our little keyboard has not seen a whole lot of play-time and my piano-playing skills are sadly not what they once were.  Playing piano is not like riding a bike.  You can't just stop playing for a few years and start up again playing the same Chopin and Beethoven pieces with just as much speed, grace, or feeling.  (There is a reason why my teacher had me constantly practicing scales to keep my technique and finger agility fine-tuned!)  I ran into my old piano teaching last summer and she mentioned wanting to put on a recital featuring her former students. 

"Um, my piano skills are not what they used to be and I cannot play the types of pieces that I used to," I nervously told her.  

She responded without hesitation, "Oh, I'm sure you'd do just fine!" 

I internally panicked!  How disappointed would my teacher be to discover just how much her former, aspiring-piano-performance-major student had regressed over years of not practicing?!  Luckily, the recital never came to fruition and I thought I was off the hook..........until a friend approached me in church six weeks ago.  Her family was going to be singing for our church's Christmas program the Sunday before Christmas and she needed someone to accompany them.  "I asked Carol Tisch (my former piano teacher) if she knew of anyone who could accompany us on the piano," she said, "and she directed me to you.  Would you please play for us?"  Another internal panic.  Yikes!  I am a horrible performer and a rusty piano player at best.  So I did what I do best and stood my ground with an assertive, "Sure, no problem."  

The next three weeks saw me feverishly practicing on our keyboard at every spare moment.  After I felt fairly comfortable playing the piece, I began to mix in playing other pieces during my practice time.  My girls began to sit on my lap while I played and sang along.  Lila has especially taken to "playing the keyboard" and singing in the past month and I am slowly starting to realize what a disservice I have been doing myself AND my daughters by not playing more often and developing (or at least keeping up on) my talent.  Not only do I get a lot of personal satisfaction from playing the piano, but how can I have dreams of my own children developing a love for the piano and a desire to someday play if they never see that same desire and love come from their mama?  
So thank you, Carol, for your insistence and belief in my piano playing abilities after all these years.  My husband may be sick of hearing me play "Still, Still, Still" and our house has been super noisy with all the keyboard playing pounding that has been going on from our newest little pianists, but there is an added joy in our home since that keyboard has gotten regular use.
Oh, and I was able to accompany those singers in church without a glitch of shaky fingers. :) 

We have come full circle.  My little girl sits at the same piano I did 15 years ago:
I believe it may be time to start saving up for a baby grand. :)

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