Piano Lessons Redux

Faye at piano; circa 1953
Photo by Marv

These days, my time-out is at the keyboard, stretching my fingers, practicing exercises, rag, and blues pieces. After 9 years of classical training, at age 16, I precipitously walked away from my year-end recital. Likely cause: adolescent angst, frustration over a Beethoven Sonata’s arpeggios, my teacher’s adamant distaste of Boogie Woogie and popular music.

Two years ago, at a music store, I noticed a beautiful Roland electric piano. When I opened it and sat down to play the full keyboard, I was delighted by the sound. The price was right—reasonable as the two lowest keys were irreparable and this being a professional keyboard, it was not selling. It was an impulse-buy, a balm against anxiety during the presidential election.

Did I immediately sit down to play? My memory muscle failed. I could no longer amble up and down the keyboard with Deep Purple or I’m in the Mood for Love, favorites I had played all during my young adulthood. Parenting and launching two musically talented children, a full time therapy practice, and marriage challenged all my resources; I drifted far away.

I felt regret at the sight of my silent piano. I knew well the difference between my adolescent skill-set and my flailing Octogenarian effort. I needed help: a teacher who could relate and guide me. All these months of gratitude practice had taught me the benefits of embracing the beginner’s mind. My hubris long dissipated, I needed to begin again.

In September, I returned to the place where my children had grown as musicians: The All Newton Music School, which, thankfully, is ten minutes by car from my home. The woman in charge of new enrollees interviewed me on the phone about my preferences. “I’d like a teacher who can relate to an Octogenarian, but who also teaches children,” I said.

The first day, Kim, her eyes dancing, greeted me as I walked through the front door. “Are you Faye?” she said. I was her first student, 12:30 for a half hour. I told her my story, how far away I was from proficiency, my trepidation. She taught children in a group, had students of all ages, and instantly began to talk goals, how to proceed.

Eight lessons later, I am grateful to be coming into my own. I started with a simple version of Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer and now am challenged by an intermediate version. The goal—to follow the music , maintain the tempo, integrate the offbeat rhythms, and keep my hands in sink..

Last week, in frustration over my dogged rendition, Kim explained that I was approaching the piece as I had long ago— counting methodically as if I were playing Bach. Joplin’s pieces are dance pieces, alive, fast, and driven by varying rhythms. I needed to tackle small segments, practice each hand separately, each day setting the metronome a little faster. In time, the hands would come together.

Gratefully, I report progress. Sometimes, the past calls with a treasure: a gift of engagement, a lost passion, waiting like the sound of Joplin, deftly played and up beat.

12 thoughts on “Piano Lessons Redux

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Thanks, Carol. I’m so appreciative of your friendship and support. Love you right back, Faye

  1. Patricia Rogers

    What an inspiration you are…makes me want to take drawing lessons…something I’ve always wanted to learn!!!

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Yes! go for it, Pat. I am not surprised given your daughter’s talent and your own in floral design. The making of art/music provides such a welcome balance.

  2. Amy yelin

    Love this Faye. Great last line/sentiment. I’ve been thinking about retaking piano myself – I quit around age 12/13. Regret it now of course!

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Amy, yes! It takes some adjusting, to switch to a totally different way to learn and listen, but when it comes together, it’s so worth the effort. I would encourage you to begin again. Terrific to hear from you.

  3. Claudine

    Thank you Faye for this wonderful piece. I am sure that pursuing our gifts and working at them, no matter how difficult makes us happier folks.
    Thrilling to hear about a brave move and your pleasure in learning

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Claudine, yes, we are blessed with passion that feeds our energy and engagement. Wonderful to share the path, my friend!

  4. Rosemary Booth

    I felt a musical tempo in this piece–including notes of lightness, of hesitation, and yes of exuberant emphasis, all suggesting welcome re-discovery of a world the writer/musician once knew. I also like how some intriguing memories–e.g., the dropped year-end recital–have been mentioned but not yet explored, leaving an expectation of future riffs!

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Rosemary, thank you for noting your sense of a musical tempo and the illusion to re-discovery. I was particularly amused by your exception of future riffs! That would be a whole new form for me on paper!

  5. Sue Neff

    A breath of fresh air, with hope mingled in, on a day when once again we are looking for something to give us hope…..

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Sue, there is something soothing about the right melody, a rhythm which lifts the spirit. So happy to have you as a subscriber!

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