It’s not a good scene to be jealous of eight-year-olds.
That’s what happened at the party my piano teacher gave for her students and their parents. I tried not to let it show as I turned green with envy. These eight-year-olds, who never practice, played beautifully. No choking. No losing your place in the sheet music. No sweat. No being flummoxed beyond control. No panic. No big deal. Eating cookies and drinking lemonade was more important. Thank you Apollo, god of music, for not requiring the adult students to play at the party. Relief like you feel when your dentist tells you that you don’t need a root canal.
I choke when I play for just one person: me. The brains in those eight-year-olds are sponges, absorbing anything and everything even if met with resistance. My brain is quite the opposite. It can be pounded on with knowledge, some of which seeps in, but then it disappears. My brain gives me the silent treatment. And I can’t figure out what I did wrong to deserve that.
At age sixty-three I started piano lessons. Something I have wanted to do since I was a kid. A beautiful piano entered by life unexpectedly as a gift from a beautiful person. I will write about her later. The first lesson entailed stating my goals. Did I want to do a recital? No way. You have to memorize the song, no sheet music crutch. All on your own. With an audience. I’d faint. And then die. And then go to piano purgatory. Give me a pass–straight to hell.
Understanding and appreciating music more is the primary goal. The secondary goal is just to play for the sheer fun of it. By myself. It’s a brain game! Maybe get rid of some of that gray fluffy stuff for something more substantial. So I will be attractive to Zombies who feed on the brains of the living. It would hurt to be passed up.
The lessons go well if I practice one hour a day. But sometimes I feel like an eight-year-old in that I’d rather just go out and play. Or watch paint dry. Or go to the dentist. Anything but. I give myself a good talking to and then behave and do what I’m supposed to. Other times, the hour breezes by like a gentle wind. I’m carried along carefree and confident. But sometimes the monsoon storm hits, wreaking havoc in my brain and with my chords. I just can’t find shelter in the correct fingerings. Over and over for over an hour, the chords are played, sometimes right, sometimes wrong. And then the skies (and my brain) clear up. There it is. Epiphany!
The first time I played the easiest of songs was an absolute thrill. Something pleasant to my ears that I was creating. A wow moment. Joy and pleasure can be so simple. The music has become more challenging, complicated and elusive since then. I have to work harder. But that’s okay. The payoff is such a sense of achievement. I still have a brain. And it seems to be working. Ta Da!
If any of you have a similar pursuit of happiness story, please share it. And let’s encourage everyone and anyone to chase their dreams. Age doesn’t matter.