My On-Again, Off-Again Romance with the Piano

When I was little, my parents let me take a group piano lesson with our neighbor, Mr. Clark. He gave us each a color-coded strip to place behind the keys. I don’t recall how old I was, but maybe we were young enough that we didn’t know our letters. He gave us books where the notes were color-coded to match the strip of paper behind the keys. The books had simplified great songs, some from Rock-n-roll, blues, and others from classical music. I sang along while I played. It was easy and fun.

We did not own a piano at the time.

Mr. Clark moved away first. Then we left the neighborhood too.

Next came the graceful elderly woman with the pure white hair and the gorgeous, stuffy home. Her music room was filled with multiple instruments, mostly pianos and organs. I remember it was not well-lit. She was serious and seemed to fit in with a character out of a Jane Austen novel. It was inspiring, but certainly not as fun as our color-coded lessons with Mr. Clark. I played only classical under her tutelage.

I don’t know if those lessons ended because I did not practice enough, or if she retired, or if she told my parents that I was not worth teaching. I probably wasn’t.

I took another stab at piano at a music school, where you were required to take a musical theory class in addition to your private lesson. It sapped the romance out of it, and I was not good enough or focused enough to compete with the more dedicated students.

Then we sold our beautiful piano to cover private school and college tuition. A reasonable sacrifice, given I wasn’t really playing. But I missed tinkering.

I tried two more times.

Once I earned my lab points in college by taking lessons. I remember again being swooped off my feet by the little, dusty practice rooms and the fact that I was doing something unique from my pre-med friends. I felt creative and dramatic.

But again, I did not practice enough, and my fingers had slowed in the few years in-between lessons. It was frustrating to have lost even the little skill I had. So I quit again. Plus, I would not have access to a piano again for more than 15 years.

And then, with a baby grand in my home, and two of my three boys in preschool, I tried another lesson at a nearby school of folk music. The teachers there were different from the others. They believed that we were all capable of learning to play by ear. I struggled with it. I was too busy changing diapers and cleaning sippy cups.

So now, my boys take piano. Their teacher is young. She wears cool clothes. She comes to our home after her day job. Nothing like any of the teachers I had through the years.

But I cannot imagine it lasting. They hate to practice, which I never did. It was just always lower on the priority list. And sadly, they don’t see the romance in it. While I do not want to push them to excel in something merely because I did not, I keep hoping that one day they will want to play Piano Man or The Entertainer or Chariots of Fire or the entire Glory soundtrack or anything by Ludwig, and swoon from infatuation with the music they can make… because, unlike me, they kept with it.


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