Tag Archives: Piano lessons

Classic Post: A Plunker’s Piano Lessons

This post first appeared on October 21, 2020.

I started piano lessons at five. Stopped at the ripe old age of nine.

Statistics indicate I’m not alone; 6,761,141,370 of the world’s 6,761,141,379 people have taken — and quit — piano lessons.

I blame my parents. Neither had musical training, yet Dad’s big hands overran the keyboard. Mom, though partially deaf, could listen to a song, then play a full-fledged accompaniment in any key.

At five, I also picked out tunes. Why bother with notes? Neither did I (shudder) count beats. Mixing music, God’s gift, with arithmetic (eww), appeared one more weird complication adults demanded.

Image by Davidatpoli from Pixabay.

Mom tried to explain. If only she could’ve taken lessons!

I’d have remained unconvinced — except for strong capitalistic instincts. Mrs. Snyder charged 50 cents a lesson, but she always refunded a nickel to me. With yellowed books and sheet music piled everywhere, her musty house smelled mysterious and musical. Thousands of former students’ photos adorned her walls, as Mrs. Snyder had been teaching 200 years.

I liked Mrs. Snyder, I liked nickels and I liked Mom’s shining eyes when I practiced.

Sadly, Mrs. Snyder passed away. My new teacher handed me practice sheets instead of nickels. I played songs like “Requiem for a Student Who Didn’t Practice.” Mrs. Mozart made me (choke!) play duets with my brother. We bowed and curtsied at stiff, scary recitals. The longsuffering teacher informed Mom we weren’t destined to play at Carnegie Hall.

She finally let us quit.

Not until college did I realize my loss. There, I met people whose fingers blurred over the keyboard. One blind friend played as if part instrument, part human. Her music rippled up and down my backbone, joy unleashed.

Why are mothers always right? Especially when they preach, “What goes around comes around.” My children blossomed with initial interest, but only one persisted into high school. As they plunked through first practices, I wondered if Mom had enjoyed mine as much as she’d claimed.

Still, my kids learned to read music, and piano background fueled interest in other song forms.

Our piano — the first purchase my husband made after medical school graduation — often sits silent now, though I try to play daily. My fingers itch to exchange my laptop’s tippity-taps for music. Soon, I’ll touch piano keys and listen to less-than-perfect love.

Even if nobody gives me a nickel.

Image by Piro from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How did you feel about piano lessons?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Wish I Hadn’t Quit!

O Lord, You recall how my mom begged me to practice piano, but finally gave up and allowed me to quit lessons. Thank You that my daughter didn’t cave — and, OMG, her boys make wonderful music!

Piano Magic

My five-year-old fingers stretched across the keys of our church sanctuary’s piano.

My mom, who’d never taken lessons, played for services. The keys sang lovely songs she’d absorbed after one hearing. Soon, she played them in any key.

The piano would do musical magic for me, too.

Our family, preparing for a mission trip, lived in our church’s two back rooms. We children were forbidden to touch the church’s unlocked instruments.

Right.

My brother Ned explored the organ’s mysterious tubes and wires.

The baby grand’s rich tones drew me. Besides, fooling with the organ warranted worse punishment.

But keys rarely cooperated when I played. Sometimes, a strand of melody escaped the chaos. But the piano did not love me.

Later, I realized that before confronting us, Mom listened. Her belief in our budding talent later led to Old Camo’s appearance in our sparsely furnished living room.

I’ve never seen such a piano before or since. Gray-and-white camo vinyl covered it. Metal studs outlined its silhouette. No wonder we could afford it. Still, I fell in love.

My fumblings drove my family to the same sentiment as George Bernard Shaw, music critic as well as playwright. He said, “Nothing soothes me more after a long and maddening course of pianoforte recitals than to sit and have my teeth drilled.”

Our daughter passed the music magic on to her children.

But I recognized more and more melodies. My excitement grew … until lessons sapped the magic.

Mom encouraged practice, then bribed, then chained me to the bench, hoping I would make friends with written notes. After four years, I continued to balk. She gave up.

Still, I played for church youth meetings. My peers dove for cover, but melodies and harmonies eventually found my hands. I even played the sanctuary piano (though neither Ned nor I crawled inside the organ anymore.)

Ned, also a piano practice delinquent, nevertheless worked for a piano craftsman. After Old Camo collapsed, teenaged Ned rebuilt a baby grand for Mom.

I missed it after I married. No money for pianos. Given our fabulous $97.50-per-month studio apartment, we’d have had to sleep on the bench.

We were skinny, but not that skinny.

After graduation, a new spinet graced our living room. Despite toddler abuse, teeth-gritting kids’ practices, and my thumping, it remains a monument to the magic.

As is our daughter. Like her mother and grandmother, she often ignores little black notes and discovers her own songs.

Mom was, too. Battling dementia, she played what Dad called his “dinner music” while he cooked.

“Beautiful,” Dad told her.

Though Mom didn’t remember repeating the same song seven times, her fingers and her spirit found their way to lovely music.

The magic triumphed again.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Is piano music magic for you?

A Plunker’s Piano Lessons

I started piano lessons at five. I stopped at the ripe old age of nine.

Statistics indicate I’m not alone; 6,761,141,370 of the world’s 6,761,141,379 people have taken — and quit — piano lessons.

My early days at the piano.

I blame my parents. Neither had musical training, yet Dad’s big hands overran the keyboard like a spring storm. Mom, though partially deaf, could listen to a song, then play a full-fledged accompaniment in any key.

At five, I, too, picked out tunes. Why bother with notes? Neither did I (shudder) count beats. Mixing music, God’s gift, with arithmetic (eww), appeared one more weird complication adults demanded. My brother also deemed piano lessons unnecessary.

Mom tried to explain. If only she could have taken lessons as a child!

I would have remained unconvinced — except for strong capitalistic instincts. Mom paid Mrs. Snyder 50 cents a lesson, but she always refunded a nickel to me. With yellowed books and sheet music piled everywhere, her musty house smelled mysterious and musical. Thousands of former students’ photos adorned her walls, as Mrs. Snyder had been teaching 200 years.

My grandson played piano at a holiday concert Christmas 2019.

I played my first piece using three keys, then colored the page’s fun pictures. I liked Mrs. Snyder, I liked nickels and I liked Mom’s shining eyes when I practiced.

Sadly, Mrs. Snyder passed away. My new teacher handed me practice sheets instead of nickels. No pictures. I played songs like “Gavotte in G” and “Requiem for a Student Who Didn’t Practice.” Mrs. Mozart made me (choke!) play duets with my brother. We bowed and curtsied at stiff, scary recitals. The longsuffering teacher assured our reluctant mother we weren’t destined to play at Carnegie Hall.

Mom finally let us quit. Free at last!

Not until I attended college did I realize my loss. There, I met people whose fingers blurred over the keyboard. One blind friend played as if a single organism — part instrument, part human. Her music rippled up and down my backbone, joy unleashed.

Why are mothers always right? Especially when they preach, “What goes around comes around.” My own children blossomed with initial interest, but only one persisted into high school. As they plinked and plunked their first practices, I wondered, for the first time, if Mom had enjoyed mine as much as she’d claimed.

Still, my kids learned to read music, and piano background fueled interest in many other song forms.

Our piano — the first purchase my husband made after medical school graduation — often sits silent now, though I try to play daily. My fingers itch to exchange my laptop’s tippity-taps for music. Soon, I’ll touch the piano keys and listen to less-than-perfect love.

Even if nobody gives me a nickel.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you taken piano lessons?