89: Music Lessons

89: Music Lessons

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

Music Lessons

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.

~Plato

I picked our gray cat off the top of our piano and gave her a hug. “That’s an expensive perch for a cat,” I said out loud.

She head-butted my chin and wiggled out of my arms back to her favorite place — the top of our piano. It gave her a good view of the entire living room, the kitchen, and the back yard.

My husband and I had purchased the piano so our son and daughter could take piano lessons.

I had a secret dream of my own that I did not share with anyone. One day I wanted to learn to play the piano.

I had taken lessons for a short time in elementary school, until my military dad received orders for reassignment, and our piano could not be included in our household shipment. Over the years, the time to play the piano hadn’t been right — there had been no place for a large musical instrument, or we didn’t have the money for lessons.

I did pursue my love of music and learned to play the flute in junior high school. I made the high school marching band. I enjoyed the performances and the support from others who loved music as I did, but still I had dreamt of sitting on a piano bench and performing.

But as I dusted that piano on that fateful day, I knew it was now or never. I could either try to make the dream come true, or I could forget it once and for all. I lifted the keyboard cover and stroked the keys. I played a few scales I remembered, and the piano sounded as good as it had when it was new.

The next day at church I passed our bulletin board. It listed items for sale, odd jobs, and at the bottom, someone was offering piano lessons.

My voice trembled when I called the number the next day.

The lady who answered had a kind voice as she answered my questions. When she learned that I was the student she hesitated. She had never taught an adult learner, but she was willing to try if I was.

Fortunately, the lessons would begin that week, because I soon began making excuses to myself as to why it was not a good time. I had a full-time job, I had family responsibilities, and I had signed up for a class to update my computer skills. Perhaps I needed to wait until my schedule cleared a little.

I timidly knocked on her door the day of my lesson, half hoping she would not answer. But she did answer and introduced herself as Melody.

What a wonderful name for a music teacher.

When the lesson ended, Melody opened the door to her next student, a six-year-old boy bubbling with enthusiasm.

Melody introduced us and told me his name was Jeff.

“I’m going to learn to play the piano,” he told me. No doubts or insecurities got in his way.

His enthusiasm was contagious, and on my way home I whispered, “I’m going to learn to play the piano.”

I wasn’t a star pupil. I didn’t have instant recall on how to read music. I could only read treble clef music since I had played the flute for six years. Reading the treble clef came easy, but playing the bass clef was a struggle. Getting both hands to cooperate was difficult and then she introduced me to the pedal. Maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew.

Melody scolded me for not practicing enough. She had told me at the start that thirty minutes a day should be enough for me, but now she told me that I should increase it to an hour a day.

An hour a day? How would I ever find the time?

I remembered some encouragement I had received from a friend when I started the piano lessons.

I had mumbled, “I don’t know if I can find the time.”

She had said, “If it’s important to you, you don’t find time, you make it.”

That’s what I had to do now. I had to look at my schedule to see where I could make time. Getting up early and practicing wasn’t an option; I would wake the whole household. The same was true if I practiced late at night. But then I realized I was practicing when I got home from work, so I only had to add another thirty minutes to that time. I had been watching television before I fixed dinner. I enjoyed the thirty-minute television show but I could turn that into practice time instead.

The next obstacle occurred the following week, when Melody told me I would need to participate in the December recital. Each student would play one selection of a familiar song as well as a Christmas carol, and we had to play by memory. There was no way I could do that. I would have one month to memorize two pieces and I hadn’t even seen them yet. I hadn’t had to memorize anything in years.

“It’s the customary way,” Melody said. “And even Jeff is memorizing the pieces he is playing.”

Well if a six-year-old was up to the task, surely I could do that.

I practiced the two pieces, and even took the music to work so I could memorize them on my lunch break. It worked! I was able to commit the two pieces to memory.

On the day of the recital, Jeff was the first one up and he played flawlessly. The audience applauded as he bowed.

I was next. As I sat at the piano and took a deep breath, I glanced at my husband. He smiled at me and gave me a thumbs-up. But would the rest of the audience think I was foolish for performing in a children’s recital? I placed my fingers on the keys and my memory took over. It was just me and the piano. I wasn’t aware of anyone else there. I stayed seated for a few moments at the end.

There was no sound from the audience until one of the men said, “Amen.”

Then the audience applauded. But the applause didn’t matter. What mattered was that I had followed my dream and I hadn’t quit when things got difficult.

~Mary Ann Hayhurst

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