October 13, 2010

The One with the Lifelong Piano Student

Since I finally started teaching piano lessons again this fall, I have been reminiscing about my own history of piano. 
Maybe this is in an effort to recall lessons I learned for the sake of keeping ahead of my students. 
Or maybe it's just because this grand and glorious instrument has always had a place in my life. 
I remember hopping up on the piano bench next to my momma or my grams. 
I thought my playing was superb.
They, of course, agreed.

I began taking piano lessons at age 8. 
This subject matter did not come easily for me--
most likely because math was (is) not my forte.
Yeah, can you believe it?? Music--the right brained freedom of artful expression is rooted in the left brained specifics of mathematics and logic. 
I loved playing the piano.
I just hated practicing. 
My mother can attest to this. 
However, I always very strongly disliked having anyone play my piano better than me. 
Whenever my mom or a friend sat down to play, I was certain they were doing it to shame me. 

I realize now that this was likely not the case, 
but it did manage to kick my rear into gear a time or two. 
Though the ability was not natural, my musical ear was. 
I easily felt the right tempo and knew immediately if a wrong note had been played. 
This helped, but also frustrated me along the way. 
KNOWING I was wrong and not being able to play it better was just plain frustrating. 

Just six months after starting piano lessons, I began taking voice lessons from the same teacher. 
These came SO MUCH easier. 
There was nothing to it, really. 
The ease at which I learned to sing was only adding to my snail's pace advancement in piano.

Eventually, I pushed myself to improve and by senior year of high school, I was able to do a bit of accompanying for my school choir. 
I auditioned for a piano scholarship at Spring Arbor University (against my will--I knew I wasn't up to snuff).
I received a small scholarship and spent the next four years being challenged way beyond my comfort zone. 
My new instructor was loving and gifted, but was always pushing. 
For every semester's recital, I had to have my piece memorized. 
NOT a skill I had honed previously. 

I remember practicing in one of the many non-sound-proofed piano rooms and being ashamed at my playing in comparison with those piano students performing around me. 
I hoped no one would know it was me. :)

My sophomore year, I tackled Debussy's Clair de Lune and performed it from memory at the recital. 
That was my moment of glory. 
I was proud. so proud. 

Though my skills in classical music may not have heightened since my last lesson over 2 years ago, 
I have been reaping the benefits of those 14 years of piano lessons ever since. 
Each Sunday I play piano/keyboard along with the worship team for church. 
I have learned to improv from chords. 
I have been forced to understand key signatures to a greater degree.
My sight reading abilities have sky rocketed. 
I have to be ready and willing to play whatever, whenever.

And I look forward to continuing to teach students who are excited to learn. 
Teaching reinforces my knowledge of music to such an extent that I learn it twice as well as I had before. 
My students sometimes challenge my understanding and my memory and while it's a bit freaky it's also really great "exercise."
I don't know where I'll be--musically--in 10 or 20 years--but I pray I continue to use my abilities to glorify Jesus Christ. 
Because He's the whole point. 


  1. I wish I lived near you and you could give me lessons!!! I played in elementary school and then played clarinet in high school but I wish I could play piano now!

  2. I think you are a great pianist!

  3. I hated practing to. I would give my mom such fits. LOL

  4. I know exactly how you feel about practicing. I love when I get the gumption to play my guitar...but I hate the times that I *have* to do it.


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