There's a home video somewhere at my grandma's house that I remember seeing a few years ago. I'm sitting at the grand piano in my grandma's dimly lit living room, the one with the red shag carpet. I'm wearing a blue sweatsuit, my tangled wavy hair well past my shoulders. I'm about three.
The grand piano in grandma's living room.
The video is a few minutes long and it's me happily pounding on the piano keys, making up songs about Santa Clause, driving cars, and a bunny named "Hopper". (Ask my aunt, she'll still laugh about the Hopper Song.) I make up the words as I go, I wiggle my little self all over, happy to be entertaining my aunts and mom sitting on the couch beside me.
Fast forward a few years and I'm play at home on our upright, we got either very cheap or from someone we know. At one point, before we owned it, someone had spilled something which had leaked down into the pads and hardened them. When you played any notes around Middle C, there was a resounding "CLANK" with each stroke. We bought the house from my grandparents and this piano was in the same place as the grand piano my grandma once had. I still played in the evenings by the dim light of the lamp on top of the piano.
I eventually I begin piano lessons with my aunt. She's a strict teacher, and I hate practicing. I hate reading notes and just not feeling good enough. I have to remember to keep the tops of my hands flat and she places a penny on top of them to ensure I follow this rule. I often don't know the piece I was supposed to be practicing because while at home, I'd get bored of the same piece over and over and just start making something up on my own.
There are piano recitals every spring. My mom sews me a new dress each year (that also doubles as my Easter dress) and I nervously play my memorized pieces in front of our family and friends. Each summer we travel to Omaha to compete in the "Piano Olympics". Here I play one of the same solos in a small practice room in front of a judge. I'm nervous, hoping I don't completely make a fool of myself. If I do well, I'll get a trophy later on in the day. After a few years I end up with quite a few trophies and pins.
An amazing outfit to compliment my killer piano skills.
In junior high and I play the piano in jazz band. I love learning the different styles of music but hate being put on the spot. I never feel like I can improvise as well as I think I should, I have trouble learning chords on complicated jazz scales. We travel to jazz competitions each year and I enjoy being part of an ensemble, where it's slightly harder to hear if I miss a note or two.
In high school I continue with the piano lessons and with the jazz band. By this point most of the kids in band have dropped out. It's just not as cool in high school, I guess. Parents have been satisfied with their children's "trying it out" for a couple of years and don't push them to continue. We continue to have concerts and attend jazz competitions. One year I even win an "outstanding soloist award", although I never thought the solo was that difficult or outstanding.
Posing by the grand piano, in my prom dress naturally.
Fast forward quite a few more years and I'm now a mom. I miss music. I miss just sitting down and letting out whatever comes to mind based on however I'm feeling. I miss making something beautiful instantly.
I'm now on the scout for a full sized electric piano for our home. I want to be able to play music for my family again, like I did when I was a little girl. And more importantly, I want to start to teach the boys. It's so important for children to learn an instrument, almost everyone I know who has never learned to play something always wishes they could. I'm blessed to have grown up in a family who placed a lot of value on music and the arts and intend to instill this in the boys. I want them to have these memories and to feel the joy of being able to create something beautiful instantly.
Isaiah playing the piano with his Uncle Josh at my mom's house.