Earlier in this series, I talked about how my parents inspired me and encouraged my love of music. They are both long gone now, Dad for over 50 years and Mom for a decade, but every time I play anything, I think of them. In the last installment discussing whether I was still a musician or not, I came to the conclusion that even without performing for others, I am and always will be a musician. The pandemic has pushed me to enjoy my music more privately, and in doing so, return to my roots and my first instrument, the piano. Playing the piano reminds me of my mother, especially when I play some of the repertoire that she played frequently. One of her favorites was Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude. Mom used to play this one with deep expression and early on told me the story her piano teacher told her about the piece. Her favorite teacher used to tell her stories about every piece she was assigned, and in doing so made the music come alive as much more than mere notes on the page. Continue reading
This piece of the journey picks up where part 1 left off, the summer before my freshman year of high school. Leaving junior high behind, there was a lot ahead, and that summer was an eventful one. Normally, the incoming freshman class didn’t start band rehearsals until school commenced in the fall, but this particular summer was different. The band had been invited to participate in a massive summer parade as part of the Lions Club International conference in San Francisco, so there was no time to lose. The high school’s band was an award winning organization known throughout the western region as a top notch marching band. Their strength wasn’t in the drum corps style of marching or field shows. They thrived on military-style street marching competitions where everything, including standing inspections of the uniforms, hair length, musical interpretation, and marching precision was scored. My class, as incoming freshman, had a lot to learn in short order. Continue reading
My earlier commentary, Why care about classical music?, got me thinking back to my musical roots. As mentioned in that article, years ago, my ex-husband had asked me if I hadn’t had my early exposure to music at home, would I have still developed such an affinity for it. At that time, though it surprised him, I told him that there was no way to know for sure. Still, music has always been the one constant source of comfort throughout my life. It hasn’t always taken exactly the same form, but it has always affected me deeply, and it has been central to who I am no matter my endeavor. That said, I wanted to further explore my personal musical journey through a series of essays, and this is the first (chronologically at least) in that story.
As that famous Hammerstein lyric states:
“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”
I can’t begin my own story without starting with my parents. No, I’m not referring to the obvious fact that without them, I wouldn’t physically exist. I am instead observing that they gave me my first concentrated exposure to music. From the very first days at home, a few things happened. Continue reading
There is no question that music touches us deeply. There are also myriad studies showing the cognitive benefits of listening, but there are even more benefits when actively participating in making music. For the purposes of this discussion, the assumption is that the reader, for whatever reason, is now intent on learning to play a musical instrument. Whether their goal is personal or professional, an initial instrument must be chosen, i.e., they have to start somewhere. This commentary proposes that the piano be that starting point.
There can be many goals such as:
- Mastering the piano and all of its intricacies;
- Composing music;
- Playing the guitar, or bass, or drums in a rock band;
- Playing the violin, or cello, or bassoon in a symphony orchestra;
- Playing the clarinet or trumpet in a wind band;
- Playing the saxophone or trombone in a jazz band;
- Conducting a band or an orchestra;
- Teaching music;
- Becoming a music therapist;
- Developing more tools for connecting with family and friends;
- Mastering one’s voice for the theater, the opera, or that rock combo.
No matter the goal, the piano is still the best prelude for all of it. It can take a lifetime to master the piano (if one ever truly does). Even when one studies it as a stepping stone to any other musical endeavor, the foundation that piano study helps to build makes everything else much easier to learn. Continue reading