But to keep with the theme of the piano and music, I thought I would touch on my recently new found love of playing the piano by way of a little story.
I started playing piano over 27 years ago at the age of four. The impetus for me learning the piano was that I told my parents that I wanted to play the drums after seeing the drums in a marching band at a local parade. They insisted that I learn the piano first and then move onto drums later. I objected and didn't quite understand the logic, but went along with it so that I could get to my drums.
I kept going with the piano even once I had access to the drums and looking back on it now, each instrument fed on the other. I learned things playing percussion instruments that I never would have learned just from the piano. The piano provided a place where I could play some of my favorite songs of the day (the Jurassic Park and Lion King soundtracks were favorites) but also learn quite a bit about the history of western music. I had wonderful opportunities to perform in festivals and competitions in and around Rochester, and as nervous as I always was for these performances, I wouldn't trade those experiences for the world.
Percussion was my “social instrument” which I played in band (concert, jazz, and marching). I made many friends in all of these activities and they took me all around the country and would eventually bring me to my wife and family when I moved to drum corps as a young adult. Just as with piano, I had the chance to perform in various competitions and while I was rarely nervous performing with a band, I got a similar rush and look back on those experiences with equal fondness as those I mentioned earlier.
When I graduated from high school, my playing music on a daily basis ceased. I was not going to college to pursue a musical career and the school I had chosen to attend didn’t have much of a music program to speak of. I took a sharp turn away from something that had dominated my life for over a decade and that I truly loved. It didn’t take long for me to find myself involved in music again, this time on the teaching side in front of young marching band students. I found my way to drum corps and focused my musical energy on mallet percussion. I was playing something about as close to a piano as you can find in marching music (at least at the time) and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Fast forward another few years, I was married, and living on my own. A friend of the family was moving and trying to find a home for an old piano. Excited to have one of my own, I leapt at the opportunity to take this and had it moved into our apartment. I didn’t play much at the time and when we moved into a smaller apartment we were forced to put the piano into storage until we moved into our house. Again I didn’t play as much as I thought I would, especially now that there was usually a baby sleeping. We paid the gift forward and passed this piano on to a family that had just moved to town with several young kids who wanted one.
One last leap forward in time to last week and my sister and brother-in-law passed their piano on to my family, one that had belonged to my grandmother before her passing and which I remember playing when I visited her home as a child. While not as old as the instrument we had in our apartment several years ago, this one is special because of the people it has belonged to. My son has immediately taken to it and already has two songs in his repertoire (Twinkle Twinkle and Hot Cross Buns if anyone is interested in booking his talents) and is working on Ode to Joy. We are not forcing him to play but when I see his exuberance to be at the piano, it stirs something deep inside me that has been dormant for far too long and I want to play. I pulled out several of the pieces of music that I played for my senior recital and for competitions during my last two years of high school and amazed myself a little at how well my fingers could still remember them.
Music is truly a gift. I will never be as gifted a musician as Derek Paravicini is. I can read music fairly well, but have always been a bit envious of my father’s knack for improvisation. But I hope that I can provide a basis for musical education for my son and daughter. Regardless if they decide to pursue it further, I want them to have that background to draw on in their lives because it has been tremendously valuable for me. Now I know that I must be a role model and get in front of the piano and hopefully they will follow my lead.