Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Piano is not my forte

My Mom gave me this, my childhood piano.
When I was in third grade my mother bought this piano, both for me to practice and for her to play to relieve her anxiety at my father being in Vietnam (he was a helicopter pilot). I dutifully took piano lessons that year but didn't really learn a thing. It was quite overwhelming to hear my mother knock out Rachmaninoff and Chopin while I was trying to figure out what the "1-3-5" was all about under those black spots dancing across the lines of the staff.

You see, my mother took piano lessons for 12 years as a child and was "forced" to practice, most of the time against her will. She hated performing and so only participated in one recital at the end of the twelve years. But all those years of practice made her a formidable pianist. I grew up hearing her play the classics as well as popular tunes. She could sightread anything!

But because of her bad memories of "forced" practice, she didn't force me to practice, and so I didn't learn anything. I tried taking lessons again in fifth grade, but I just couldn't catch on. Then in sixth grade I signed up to be in the choir, but the band director must have needed flute players, because he talked me into playing flute. (Knowing what I know now, I probably should have played trombone or baritone because I had to really work at my flute embouchure, and it still isn't great.)

Playing in the band did help me learn to read music, finally, but my parents understandably didn't want to pay for piano lessons again.  So in the eighth grade I "worked at" piano by myself. I discovered I could not sightread treble AND bass clefs simultaneously, so I memorized Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," measure by measure. It took about a year but I got it down, and to this day it remains the only difficult piece I've ever learned on piano. My best friend in high school recently remarked that she remembers me coming to her house and playing that song for her.
My old beat-up copy of Moonlight Sonata
As a music major I had to take piano, but my poor teacher that first semester despaired of me. She had me learn a fairly easy Clementi Sonatina for the recital, but I froze up and made a mess of it. She sighed and had me start over, but I still didn't nail it the way I had in practice. I don't think she was sorry to see me go!

I didn't take piano again until I went back to college eight years later. By then I'd been a medical transcriptionist for several years and could type 140 wpm. Unfortunately I played the piano like I typed--fast and uneven--and the instructor had me do hours and hours of drills to try to "straighten out" my finger work. It didn't work, but it did help my flute playing! This poor teacher also must have sighed and been happy to see me go.

A few years after that I got my second chance at music and teaching flutes again, and often accompanied my students on their solos. I quickly discovered I needed to stick with the easiest piano parts and leave the orchestra reduction-type parts to the pros. While teaching the homeschool band I used my piano mostly for arranging music and writing the occasional original song, but now I just play occasionally, for fun. Some days my brain works better than others at reading bass and treble together, but this poor piano will never get a workout like it did when my Mom played on it. (She, I am happy to report, has another piano and plays every single day.)
The rug under the bench is a gift from my parents. It says, "Bach later, Offenbach sooner."

No comments:

Post a Comment