At one point in my life, a piano looked gigantic to me. Trying to play a chord stretched my little hands beyond their reach and I stumbled across those ivory keys, hitting a few wrong notes until I finally got there. I remember being a little scared of my first piano teacher – scared that I wasn’t learning quickly enough, that my timing would be off – or that she would tell me I wasn’t going to make it as a piano student (she never said any of those things). I was only in first grade and it was a big undertaking to learn how to play the piano. But I wanted to learn desperately. My aunt played (and taught piano) and I wanted to be just like her. It seemed to come to her so naturally, her fingers flowing over the keys, making the magic happen.
I took piano lessons for 11 years. I went through phases where I didn’t want to practice and it felt like a waste of my time. And other times when playing piano was the only thing I could think to do to just get away from it all. Finding myself at the piano in an empty house singing sad love songs and ignoring the tears falling down my cheek – it was like therapy. I also have fond memories of my younger sister and I sitting at the piano together – playing and singing Disney songs, or a tune from Little Orphan Annie. The music would fill up our house and mom my would never tell us to stop because it meant a lot to her that we were putting to good use all those piano lessons she paid for along the way. I recently sat down at my old piano in my parents house with my 6 year old niece and we played and sang those same old Disney tunes. It made me realize that I needed to play again.
When I left for college – I didn’t realize how much I missed my piano. I found myself in the basement of the music building on our college campus once and there were all these pianos just sitting there and I realized that part of me was missing. But life went on, and I played piano when I visited my parents during holiday breaks. But mostly, I didn’t play the piano anymore.
Now that I have my own house, my parents offered to give me my piano. Neither of them play – so it was just sitting there, unused aside from the times my sister and I visit their house for Christmas or Thanksgiving. Finally, the exchange happened this weekend and now I have a piano in my house again. Growing up, I always wanted a house with a piano room – somewhere I could go and just shut the door and play and sing at the top of my lungs. I also wanted a black baby grand and I don’t quite have that yet – but just having my old piano back is a huge step in the right direction. Seeing it in my house is like having a little piece of my childhood again, and I didn’t realize how much I missed it until now. I sat down last night to play a few songs from the music my mom had brought with her – it was old stuff like the “hit songs” when I was in high school, but I still enjoyed playing them. They are like little memories that I get to re-live as I start playing those old chords again.
I’m not quite the player I once was, but I’m working on it. It’s going to take some practice to be the confident pianist I was in high school. But as I was playing last night, I felt those notes in my soul and the music soothed me in a way that I haven’t been soothed in a very long time. I can’t describe the feeling I get when I play – sometimes it just feels like emotions coming from my fingertips when I hit my stride and let go of the technique and just play from my heart. My piano teacher used to tell me that I had the heart of an artist when I played. That often I would play notes that weren’t on the sheet, adding in volume and extra beats to add to the piece. I don’t even know how or why I would do this – I just felt it and my fingers just did it automatically. My piano teacher called it “artistic license” and I was okay with that, I liked the idea of having passion and heart for the music. It made me feel talented.
I’m looking forward to the day when I feel that sensation again – the magic from my fingertips, the day when I can play with all the drama and creativity I once did and not feel like a kid who has forgotten how to tie his shoelaces. Something that was so second nature to me for so long seems a little blurry to me now and that makes me sad. But more so…determined to find my voice again. This time, just for me. Not because I have a piano lesson or a concert to perform in – just because I want to play because it makes my heart happy.