Many years ago, my Mother, in her questionable wisdom, decided I was going to learn to play the piano. So she found me a teacher and from the age of 6 through to 17, every Thursday night at 6 PM, I sat at an upright, a baby grand or a grand grand and bashed through etudes, sonatas, variations, fugues and studies from whatever grade’s repertoire I was currently ravaging from the Royal Conservatory of Music. Ooh how I hated piano lessons! The practicing, the discipline, the short fingernails (No clicking Tracey!), the fact I wasn’t allowed to play anything ‘good’. I had one teacher who would sit beside me and play along with me using the last two octaves at the treble end of the scale. No-mygod that was excruciating. Imagine if you will singing a song and then having someone sharing your microphone but they are singing falsetto, only half the words and adding extra flourishes for fun right into your ear, at full volume with the wrong notes. It was like that, except with the piano on fire and you’re wearing a wool sweater without an undershirt.
Oh yah, and then another teacher added music theory to my hour of torture. I was about 9 and she was trying to explain how the notes in each bar of music have to add up to whatever the time notation was. “See,” she beamed, “it’s just like math!” Like that mistakenly inspired analogy would actually improve my dim view of the whole sorry enterprise.
Fast forward 30 odd years and I am in the kitchen of my family home staring at this hulking heavy hunk of finely crafted musical apparatus and wondering what are we going to do with it? The flooring installers are coming tomorrow and this needs to move out of the room before then. After four months offered for free on Castanet/Craig’s list and countless phone calls trying to donate it to a church or a community centre, ‘Pianos in the Park’, Mom has moved, the house is up for sale and this piano has got to go. Nope sorry, no takers.
So my brother takes out a screw driver and slowly removes one side of the keyboard, I pull off the ‘ivories’ one by one and soon there is nothing left but a pile of highly polished wood and the giant iron harp full of steel strings. As we move it out of the house, I feel my heart snap. Hmm, I guess I did have a soft spot for this irksome hobby that was foisted upon me all those years ago.
I am sorry I kicked you when my fingers couldn’t quite get the hang of a particular run. Sorry I scratched you with my tape recorder listening to a radio tune over and over trying to figure out how to play it. Sorry I pounded your keys when I just wanted to be done with my daily 30 minutes. And thanks for looking after the stacks of my sheet music of modern songs that never sounded quite right played on you, thanks for helping me appreciate classical music, thanks for sounding good even when I wasn’t and thanks for being ready on the rare occasion when I would practice uncoerced for hours just because I felt like it.
Thank you for piano lessons.