Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lessons From the Keyboard

Piano Keyboard by Sarah Sullivan

Last year I began taking piano lessons. I fancied myself a musical sort, having studied voice in high school and college and having taught myself some basic songs on the keyboard years ago when I had the luxury of time, easily picking my way through simple melodies by ear. So a year ago when I packed my youngest child off to school I knew the time was right to enlist my son’s piano teacher and make my musical mark. Soon, I imagined, my eyes would be darting across a scored page, my fingers moving adroitly over the keys filling our home with beautiful sonatas. 

Fast forward to this evening and me planted in the basement banging away at some hackneyed version of Silent Night on our hand-me-down upright that the piano tuner tells me needs at least $400.00 worth of work to sound truly in-tune. It wasn’t quite what I had imagined, but it’s good to dream. 

Learning an instrument, like learning to write, is done note by note not in some flurry of inspired genius even though I keep hoping something in life will turn out that way. Still, playing the piano is a nice accompaniment to writing. It reminds me that it’s the little victories that count. Writing a graceful sentence or playing a graceful phrase, finding exactly the right word or note, and ending with a flourish is a thrill unlike any other. 

Discipline and consistency are key to both pursuits, neither of which I’m particularly good at, but it keeps me moving in the right direction. it’s plugging away with lots of stops and starts. It’s lurching forward into the body of a piece despite the fact that the beginning isn’t yet perfect and the ending is no where in sight. It’s finding contentment in good enough because there simply isn’t time for apogee. 

I’m 47 years old now and I can play a few songs that sound fluid and familiar and sometimes I write something that that I’m proud to call my own. My skills have grown little by little, word by word, note by note, piece by piece. I like to envision a time in the future when my children are grown and I sit in the half light of my living room at my baby grand piano and play one of Bach’s Inventions with ease. After finishing the last note, I carefully close the fallboard and tuck into my favorite reading chair with a glass of brandy and a good book with my name on the cover. Perhaps it won't look exactly like that, but it's good to dream. 

1 comment:

Shirley Drew said...

This is great, Sarah--you are truly the queen of metaphor! And the picture you paint at the end of the post had me smiling...and wishing you all that you dream!

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