Saturday, November 16, 2013


(not too fast, like a spiritual)

I had to hunt for the piece of sheet music.  For eons, it had hung out within easy reach of my grasp.  But on this day I had to stand up and lift the upholstered seat.  Overplay had banished it to the dark inner box of the lid of the piano bench. 

My view
I was in the middle of washing the dishes when I heard the news on the radio.  Not that I was surprised.  Who hasn't used music to soothe the beast of pain and disappointment?  And now a real study had been conducted to prove this works.  The number one pain reducer is "Bridge Over Troubled Water," the very music I had hunted for that afternoon.    That's the way my life lives.  Things in my life are constantly bumping into one another.  Recently, I was looking at leftover construction paper thinking it would make bright confetti pieces.  A radio ad begins to play about a party business with the same name of the thought I had just had in my head.  Weird.  I had not played that song in over a year, I am certain.

Piano came into my life when I was eight.  Practice, practice, practice.  My BIL is the exception to the rule, a child prodigy discovered at the age of three.  At some point, he did decide to take lessons.  Music is his life and career.  For the rest of us, more practice.  Experts now say that 10,000 hours of practice will make you an expert.  And others disagree.  I think you have to learn the basics and invest in the time to build on those basics.  The joy of playing the piano is not instant gratification for anyone involved: the student, the teacher or the innocent bystander caught in the practice shots of missed notes and the frustrations of a struggling novice.

Popular sheet music was my measure of success.  Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head and The Theme to Love Story are like the chicken and the egg.  I don't know which came first.  Once I could play something I heard on the radio, it increased my incentive to be able to play better but only for myself and a very tiny, privileged audience.  With the music in front of me.

A new piano teacher (see Exquisite Virtuoso 9-3-13) in a new town demanded more of my lazy talent.  Her rigorous program of classical music extracted more practice of my mind and hands in the unchartered territory of Chopin, Grieg, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Paderewski to name a few.  And amazingly, at least to me, my ability to play and enjoy the popular music zoomed across the keyboard.  Except for recital pieces in my early years, memorization was not important, until my new teacher glued me to her piano bench.  Once my fingers learned their path and the timing, I put them through the paces. 

When I am playing the piano, my emotions can be cooled in the concentration of reading a piece of music.  If I know the piece by memory, my fingers can hardly keep up with the outpouring of emotion.  Good, bad, ugly, sad.  I can sit down at the piano and reach for a familiar song to find comfort like someone sitting down at a bar.  Maybe that is why piano bars are popular?  For me, the music doesn't disappoint.

Truthfully, that is the way I have used music since I was young.  Along comes Simon and Garfunkel.  If I am a sad teenager, BOTW.  Someone is sick, BOTW.  Friend tried to commit suicide, BOTW.  A young friend's mother dies, BOTW.    My band aid for life.  If I can just get home and get to the piano.  That's how I feel sometimes.   

10,000 hours later, I can play BOTW with my eyes closed, almost.  However I am feeling at the moment.  Of course, Stairway to Heaven and anything Dan Fogelberg are very much present in the list of my go-to ivory ticklers.  And I do pull out the classical pieces.  They have their own place and ability to sooth or pep me up.  I am so glad my parents "encouraged" me to take piano lessons.

One of my favorite verses from BOTW: 

"Sail on silver girl, Sail on by, Your time has come to shine,  
 All your dreams are on their way.  See how they shine."

Wow.  We are going to get through this.  Stretch out your hand and see what is out there, it is good and waiting just for you.

Really.  The song delivers.

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