Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Piano Dreams: Part 1

Music, as it relates to my life, is an interesting idea. I've never been particularly musical and I was never intended to be a musician, but music has always been there in a very constant way.

There is always music in my head - sometimes an ear worm of a song from the radio, sometimes something completely made up and silly (my kids love those ones.) And I've always appreciated those who can play an instrument - Matt and my Dad both play the guitar, and I've always loved listening to them play, even if they're just messing around. Matt's guitar was even an important piece of the very beginnings of our relationship.

But if someone were to ask me if I'm a musical person? My impulse would be to say no.

When I was 8 or 9, my best childhood friend played an instrument at school, and it piqued my interest. I know most public schools do this, but I went to an underfunded private school that didn't offer it, so I had to take private lessons if I tried anything. I didn't have any clue what I really wanted to play, just that I loved the idea of being able to, so I chose to play what my friend did so we could compare notes and play together - the clarinet. I convinced myself I liked it for a little while, but honestly? It sucked. The whole spit thing drove me nuts (so gross!), and I always pinched and scraped my tongue on the reeds (I can still recall how they taste, sort of like a popsicle stick.) But the worst part is that I had childhood asthma and a complete lack of lung capacity to play a wind instrument. Uh, hello. Kind of important.

My instructor would always harp on me about blowing harder, and I just couldn't! His frustration with it felt like yelling to me. He was a big guy, and lessons were taught in these quiet closet-sized rooms to block out the sounds of the other instruments being practiced, so his disappointment was even more intense. We had 2 chairs, a couple of clarinets, and his booming disappointment. I finally decided that he was mean and I didn't want to do it anymore, so I quit. I so wish I'd just requested to try something else - I didn't understand that I'd just chosen the wrong instrument for myself. I wanted to get away from disappointment and spittle filled instrument pieces and swore off music all together.

As a teen, when I began to wholeheartedly fall for up and coming musicians (or singers, or pretty people with autotune, however you chose to see it), I became a little music crazed. Which feels like a typical teenage thing to do - don't they all just love music? It must be that we all turn bipolar during puberty and are drawn to things that play out our emotions since we struggle to find the words at that age. Even more stereotypical, I would find anything microphone-shaped and shut myself in my room to sing whole albums while mimicking whatever dance moves I could recall from the music videos.


My high school boyfriend used to marvel at the fact that he could change the radio station to any channel and I would know the words to whatever was on. Pop, rock, country, alternative, indie, oldies. I went through a phase of liking each one best, or had been close to someone who had preferred each type, and I could recall so many songs.

As I grew, I would cure a bad day with a shower and a loud stereo with my favorite pop singers echoing around in the good acoustics. I would sing as loud as I could, exhausting myself and blocking out anything stressing or upsetting.

Songs bonded me with friends and loved ones, marked phases of my life with their familiarity, and built bridges with people I wouldn't have had things in common with otherwise. I'm sure they do the same for you, too.

I've always been extremely attracted to the sound of a piano. It can be so beautiful and emotional, and it's something that I've always envied in those that can play one even a little bit.

One day in recent history, my Grandma was telling me about an app she downloaded to her iPad to learn to play the piano. I told her how badly I had always wanted to learn, and she said she had always dreamt of it herself and put it off her whole life. After that conversation, I put "Take Piano Lessons" on my bucket list. Who cares that I'm a 30 year old mother of 3? I can still do it!

I mentioned it here and there and talked to Matt about how badly I wanted to do it when Jake was older and I was able to escape on my own. So I've got that part covered, but I've been so overloaded with the current school year and my various jobs that it hadn't crossed my mind. Then, a few weeks ago, we went to my cousin's daughter's 13th birthday party, and she got a really big, nice keyboard. My Grandma and I looked at each other and sort of pouted about our mutual dream. We were jealous! My Grandma actually has an even bigger keyboard, but it was my Grandpa that always played it, and she's a pretty busy woman herself.

Matt suggested that I get a keyboard "eventually" (read: when we can afford to spend money that isn't going towards the house or kids), and I could teach myself with books and videos. But that not only felt too distant, but I knew without lessons I wouldn't find enough time to do it. At least with lessons I will leave the house once a week for designated piano time and likely come home with homework that I will set out to complete. I can of course teach myself other things in my own time, but the likelihood of teaching myself the entire instrument wasn't great.

A day or two before Christmas, Jake was napping and the boys were playing Minecraft so I was getting some much needed gift wrapping done. My Grandma called and said that she told my Grandpa about my desires to take piano lessons, and he was so excited about it that he wanted me to have his keyboard!


My Grandpa is likely where I inherited my creative gene. He paints and draws like a professional, plays the guitar and piano, carves sculptures out of wood, makes all kinds of silly things out of materials like toilet paper tubes and duct tape to use as toys (we always loved his homemade airplanes and things!), grows huge gardens, and even builds furniture out of scrap materials (he once built us an awesome, sturdy picnic table out of my mom's old water bed, and he built patio swings out of other junk wood and some chains.) He is thrilled by creative pursuits, so it was no surprise that he was offering up his keyboard. I heard him in the background while I was talking to my Grandma, saying things like, "tell her it has an organ feature and all kinds of accompanying sounds she can play with!"

When they first called, I was hesitant to accept. We've been purging things from our house recently, and Matt hates when we take in anything big or hard to store. He is totally behind my piano dreams, but my first thought was, "oh no, how do I break it to him?"

So I brought it up to him casually that evening, and he seemed okay with it. With that hurdle jumped, I was suddenly ultra-motivated. The fact that my Grandparents were cheering for me - Grandma encouraging me to live a dream for her, Grandpa supporting creativity any way he can - it suddenly felt even bigger than me. It would mean so much. I'd get to tackle a dream and create a tribute to my Grandparents. Do you know how lucky I am to be 30 years old and still have my Grandparents encouraging me to do follow a dream? The magnitudes of that thought makes me want to cry with gratitude.

So I'm doing it.

For them, for me, and maybe even for my kids. Luke said that he wants to learn with me, and if I can teach him what I pick up, or even inspire him to take piano lessons himself, that will warm my heart even more.

I went to visit my Grandparents the day after Christmas, and my Grandpa was so excited to show me his keyboard (though I used to play with it when I was younger, I remember it - and yeah, has that thing held up over the years!) He showed me everything he could think of and proudly carried it out to my car. My Grandma told my Mom that they hope giving it to me will be the push I need to take lessons - and it is. I asked Matt to help me find some in the new year, and I cannot wait to get started!

I have a few songs on my list of things I want to learn to play (I've already learned the very beginning of Clair de Lune!), but I also plan to ask my Grandma what song she would like to hear played. If I can learn to play it for her, I will have succeeded.

I have my eye on a few avenues for lessons, and as soon as I get through the tasks of planning Luke's Birthday party (a very serious matter this year since he's now a big, important Kindergartner with new school friends to impress!) and getting the overall flow of our lives better organized (see previous post), piano lessons will take top priority!

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