Friday, October 01, 2010

Legacy of a Piano

When I was five years old my parents bought me a huge, HEAVY 19th century piano. They placed it in the formal dining room of our house. I sat at that thing for hours. I loved it. One day my mom walked by and heard me playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. She said, "Anita, how did you learn that?" I told her "Mommy, I hear the music in my head." [Or so the story goes.]
That was the beginning of my love affair with music. I started piano lessons and went for a few years. I won a talent show with a self-composed duet called "Blue Hippos and Pink Elephants" (wish I still remembered it!). Music was my "thing."
I never did get serious about piano lessons. My parents didn't make me continue when I told them I wanted to quit. [We could go back and forth on that philosophy.] But piano continued to be my go-to thing. On a sad day I could sit and create a somber piece of music. On a good day I could work hard to master a written piece.
In 6th grade I started band and chose the French Horn. I also accompanied the orchestra on piano throughout middle school. I excelled at French Horn and because of that, it became the thing I was known for. I did music in every way I could (choir, bell choir, orchestra, band). In 7th grade I decided I wanted to become a music teacher.
In high school it was the same thing. French Horn. But also musical leadership. I was drum major from 10th grade forward. I went to Drum Major camp--I know, the dorkiest thing ever but I thought it was so cool!!! I was the all-city marching band drum major too. Music. Leadership. French Horn.
When I was 16 and the piano seemed like an old musty friend, I sold it. I sold that huge 'ol thing, for $ help me buy a car. [On my list of biggest regrets.]
I attended the University of Oklahoma and majored in Music Education, playing the French Horn. I met my husband in The Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band! In my sophomore year I became "section leader" of the horns in marching band. It was also in my sophomore year that I learned of my passion for early childhood music education. It's a WHOLE different ballgame than teaching instrumental music. I started tailoring my education to include master's level classes, since there were no undergraduate classes for early childhood music education.
Even though everything in my life was centered around French Horn and teaching, the piano was still there. On sad days I still ran to the piano for comfort. The piano was still my place to CREATE music. Thank goodness for the pianos in the practice rooms at OU!
I graduated and went on to live my dream--teaching early childhood music at an elementary school. My days were filled with Kodaly and Orff and percussion instruments and teaching recorder to 3rd graders. But during my "planning" periods I was often at the piano. It was my time to de-frag and remember the magic of music.
Within a few years Eric and I had started our family, and teaching was no longer the priority. It was time to move on to the next step in my life--staying home with my children, and assisting families with adoption. Without a piano.
I've been without a piano to play since 1998. It's been a long 12 years! We lived in homes where there was no room. And certainly, a piano is a big investment. Eric and I have gone to the music store and looked at them many times over the years. But it was impractical.
Last year the desire for a piano in our home went to a new level. My kids are at the age where I really wish I could teach them, so that they could have the same "friendship" with the piano that I have always had. And suddenly it was less important that we really didn't have room for a piano. I would MAKE room.
I started looking on Craigslist for a very inexpensive piano. Eric mentioned to his mom that we were on the look out. Without a bit of hesitation she said, "Well, you can have mine." What?! That was in the first few months of this year. I felt incredibly blessed because my MIL's piano is a family heirloom. It's been in her family for about 50 years!
Finally, yesterday, the piano made it to its new home. OUR home! Yes, my living room is super crowded. Yes, the piano desperately needs a tuning. Yes, my fingers have forgotten how to move my fingers up and down the keyboard with grace. But it feels good. My home feels right. I can once again go to the piano on my melancholy days. I can once again train myself to play happy tunes for my family.
I'm not living a musical life day in and day out anymore. The piano will never again play a central role in my life. But it fills a spot in my soul that nothing else on this earth can fill.


Erika 3:41 PM  

Do you remember when you helped me get on Bell Choir in middle school? You were the one to teach me how to really read music (I only knew the bare basics). I LOVED bell choir and I think we were pretty awesome. I was sad they didn't have it in high school. Music was never my thing, but I was glad to have a small taste of it. Thanks!!

Mama D.'s Dozen 4:23 PM  

Oh my goodness! We have SO MUCH in common!

I started piano lessons at age 4 ... and continued until Jr. High.

In 5th grade, I started band ... playing the French Horn. By Jr. High, my parents had purchased me a Solid Nickel Silver Double Horn. Heaven on earth!

In Jr. High, not only did I play in the band, but I sang in the choir, and accompanied the choir occasionally, on the piano.

By High School, I was in the concert band (which was also the marching band) ... I sang in the concert choir ... I sang in the Jazz Choir ... I performed in the annual Musicals (sometimes accompanying on the piano). I still can't figure out how I got all of my college prep classes in my schedule, in between all of my music classes.

Yes ... music was my life. Ahhh ...

At 19 ... I was engaged to be married and needed a car. I sold my french horn. That, is definitely the biggest financial regret of my life.

I only went 3 or 4 years without a piano ... before we bought a $400 1900's upright grand out of the classifieds. We drug that heavy thing to more houses than I can even count.

By the time we had 5 kids taking piano lessons (and each one practicing an hour per day), we bought another $400 1900's upright grand ... and put it on the other side of the house. I could work in the kitchen and hear both pianos playing, many hours per day.

Music is a BEAUTIFUL thing. Right now, we just cannot afford piano lessons for the 4 youngest children. And, as a homeschooling mama with 6 kids still at home, I just cannot add piano lessons to my "to-do list". So, I bought an amazing computer program, where the computer connects to a keyboard, and my young ones are gaining a new love for music. Makes my heart glad.

Thanks for the memories ...

Laurel :)

A. Gillispie 6:12 PM  

Ericka! Ha! I had totally forgotten you were in bell choir with me. I think that was the coolest thing! It was such a "team sport" and we were able to make such pretty music. I would love to to something like that with my kids' homeschool group, but the bells cost hundreds of dollars. Maybe some day!

Laurel, it's funny we have such similar musical pasts! I bought a Conn 8D double horn before going to university, for $800. Little did I know it was a GREAT horn for the price--totally lucked out! When I got married, like you, I sold my horn. It went to buy furnifure for our house. My horn professor bought it from me for $3,500. Yep. Another big regret! You can buy a piano on the cheap way easier than a horn!

Mary Ellyn 6:19 AM  

I am not particularly musical -- took piano lessons for 3 years -- just enough to learn to read music. I have good musical appreciation genes though.

Then Alex came along YEARS later via Russia. He hears music in his head. We had my piano which was in terrible shape. Ended up getting a digital piano (wish we had a baby grand). The benefit is headphones when he wants to play early in the morning. It is fun to play Bach with all the different instruments. Makes practice more fun.

He started lessons at age 4 and he is still playing at 13 years old. He played violin for 3 years and trumpet for 2 years. Homeschooling allowed that happen.

Ask him what his favorite music is and he'll say classical. And then fine tune that to Chopin. He chooses music camp in the summer instead of any other kind of camp.

I am in awe of you musical types! Have fun with your piano Anita.