Thursday, May 12, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Once I Was a Pianist

I creep out of my bed to the living room, where the piano light dimly lights the room. My older sister is practicing a song before school and I longingly watch her fingers move along the keyboard. I'm not old enough to start learning how to play the piano but I am counting the days as best as a preschooler can.

The day soon arrives for my first piano lesson. I am bursting inside with joy and excitement. We open the little red piano book and I start learning a new language. For twelve years I go to lessons every week. Sometimes it is annoying to practice but mostly, the act of playing the piano brings me joy.

I am twelve years old and my cousin asks me to play at his baptism. I am excited and scared at the same time. I practice the songs with tremendous care. At his baptism, my legs tremble violently, but I manage to play the songs pretty well.

Over the years I play at church, at weddings, for friends singing. I feel like I am always at the piano, practicing or just playing for fun. I practice for hours on a daily basis.

In college, I can only play the piano in snatches. I accompany a friend during her voice lessons. She sounds much better than my attempts at playing German art songs do. My sophomore and junior years, I rent a piano. This creates a fun and curious dynamic in my apartments. People gather around the piano singing Christmas songs and irritated neighbors complain about the noise, . .

My life shifts dramatically when I marry, buckle down to finish my degree at university, take on a demanding part-time job as a seminary teacher, graduate, and then a little baby is born, making me a mother. Music is there but mostly relegated to the background.

The desire to have a piano and have music in my life on a daily basis becomes too strong to ignore. I find an old piano, make a payment on it, and start teaching piano lessons to pay for the monthly payments.

That begins my career as a piano teacher. Over the years, I teach beginning piano students in Utah, Sweden, New York, and Saudi Arabia. Teaching is so satisfying, but I don't often focus on practicing my own songs, unless I perform.

Back in New York, my piano sits in my living room, mostly untouched. My children play around on it, but I don't often sit down and practice. My fingers are rusty and stumble on the keys when I play. My once famous sight-reading skills have diminished to the point that one Sunday I had to ask to change the hymn because I couldn't play it on the spot. I don't teach anymore because my prime teaching hours are when my children are home and need me the most urgently. My children don't take lessons because my budget doesn't stretch that far right now and I am terrible at teaching my own children.

My children don't really know me as a pianist which is sad because that used to be a crucial part of my identity. In fact, this has been such a hard piece to write, precisely because I feel such sadness as I write about what I was and had. I worked really hard for many years and my family sacrificed a great deal to provide piano lessons for me. I need to recommit to playing and practicing and I need to try and figure out how to be a homeschool piano teacher to my kids.

Are there things that you developed as part of your identity that you have lost as you grew older? Do you regret that loss? Why or why not? 


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