Well it’s a magical fifth Monday and I’m writing to you today about something that technically belongs in the old-lady-hobbit category, but in actuality spans a lot of my life. And that is music.
I’ve recently had an infusion of music into my life. Jonathan plays the bass guitar and the guitar, and he loves sitting around in the evenings learning new songs. He likes the feeling of getting better at something (and he likes rebuilding the guitars). Often when we both are home in the evenings, we’ll set up a Google Hangout and I’ll do school work and he’ll play for a while. Watching him has made me miss playing my own instruments: the flute and the piano.
I started playing piano in fourth grade, taking lessons with Mrs. Wilderman. She taught English with Mom and lived behind the high school. On Monday afternoons I’d ride the bus to the high school and Mrs. Wilderman would take me home with her. We’d play for an hour and then I’d walk back to the high school. In the beginning, I drew a keyboard and taped it to my desk to practice. Soon after that, my parents got me a keyboard for Christmas. For the most part, I practiced frantically on Sunday afternoons and did my music theory homework on the bus on Monday, but I enjoyed playing.
In high school, I took lessons from Mary Martin Stockdale. My frantic day-before practice sessions continued, but I fell more and more in love with playing. I was incredibly lucky that my grandpa gave my family a real piano, and it changed the way I played. It feels so different! One of my friends also played with Mary, and we swapped pieces of music and practiced at each others’ houses. I dabbled a bit with writing music, which I also really enjoyed. And when I graduated from high school, I sadly left my piano behind.
I started playing the flute in fifth grade and played through middle school. I loved playing in a group and only having to read one note at a time! But mostly I loved playing in a group. It was an entirely different feeling to be woven into the tapestry of sound, rather than creating the whole thing myself. In high school, being in band conflicted with being on skier schedule, but I still got my flute out every once in a while.
I carried my flute with me to college, but it wasn’t until grad school that I started putting it in my backpack and playing from the top of a rock up in Chautauqua. During my undergraduate years, I didn’t play very much at all. I played my piano when I went home and pulled my flute out once or twice a year, but that was about it. It was during this time that I gave my keyboard to my Granny, who had also loved to play.
This changed last week; Granny decided to move to California and move in with Uncle Curt, and she gave my keyboard back to me. That’s a whole other lot of emotions and stories; I’m glad she’s going somewhere she’ll be happy and cared for, and sad she’s going farther away. I loved having her close by for so many years.
But now my keyboard is sitting next to my bed, begging to be played again.
It drives me nuts; the middle E key doesn’t have touch volume control anymore, and the keyboard is partial. I run out of keys on both the low end and the high end fairly regularly. My keyboard was perfect for me to learn on, but I outgrew it in some ways.
Even so, I’ve been messing around with some songs I like on Spotify and playing by ear again; the Peaceful Piano playlist has some really simple things I can practice with. I’ve been having a lot of fun playing again.
My fingers don’t have the dexterity and the strength they used to; I miss all kinds of chords that were second nature to me. But I can tell that I’m listening to music differently now, even just after a week. It gives me something to do for ten minutes between getting home and getting started on grading. And it makes me really, really happy. It’s like a different method of communicating, one that doesn’t require words. And as much as I love words, sometimes they get in the way of emotions.
Your homework: What is your favorite thing about music? How do you choose to interact with music?