Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Piano (Memory)

So, once again it is time for the "Pick a blog title by using the random feature on my MP3 player."

This time, I sort of cheated. Not really. But my MP3 player isn't really accessible right now, so I just scrolled up and down my playlist in Napster and chose a song at random.

When I was about 9, my family got a piano. We were all excited, but no one could really play. I thought I was really good and could play "Book of Mormon Stories" by playing a lot of the low notes in time to the beat. Let's just say, it was a bunch of pounding.

Back in those days, we lived in Arkansas, in a split level home. I thought we had a basement, but it wasn't really much of a basement. It was however, unfinished until the summer of 1979, when my mom and all the kids (there were four of us then) took a very long trip in our station wagon to Utah and Idaho, to visit the grandparents for about 6 weeks. My dad used that time to finish the "basement."

I tell you this story because we kept the piano in the basement. Probably so my mom wouldn't have to listen to the pounding of the keys, while her children imagined they were playing beautiful music.

We moved to El Paso the winter of 1980--just before Christmas (I think). My sister, Jennilyn, and I took piano lessons shortly after we moved there. My first piano teacher was Mena--a short little lady from the Philippines. I remember she moved across town, so we got another teacher soon after that.

I can't remember my next piano teacher's name, although she was the longest piano teacher I had. She owned a piano sales store for awhile, so we played on grand pianos for our lessons. She then closed her store and did piano lessons from someone else's piano store. There were other kids taking lessons from other people--I remember a lot of violin students, learning the Suzuki method. In the summers, Jennilyn and I rode our bikes to her house for lessons. It seemed like a very far way to ride, but I'm sure it was much less than a mile away. My mom made us promise that when we crossed busy streets that we would walk our bikes across the intersection in the cross walk. I remember we didn't do that--it was faster to ride. It seems her name was Mrs. Schultz--or something similar.

I learned to play hymns because of this teacher. She thought it was important to learn music you were familiar with, since you knew what it was supposed to sound like. It was then that I learned to play the real version of "Book of Mormon Stories." I even memorized it, and can play it from memory to this day. It's one of my favorite Primary songs. Ask any of the kids who were in Primary when I was the chorister--I get into the actions!

She also thought it was important to listen to yourself playing the piano. She suggested that we record our practice so we could play it back and hear the mistakes we made. I used my parents' black, rectangle tape recorder and recorded myself playing the piano.

At this time, my mom had Jennilyn and me practice at 6:30 and 7:00 in the MORNING! If you know me at all, you know this was torture.

But, if you know me, you know that I can be industrious. So I recorded myself playing and then played it back, at full volume, the next several days. I did this for a few weeks. Apparently, my mom never caught on, since a few years ago when I mentioned this, she told me she had no idea about my scheme.

We moved to Germany the summer of 1983. I was done with lessons--I just didn't want them and, even more, I didn't want to practice. A year later, I decided I was ready to play again, so my mom signed me up with Mrs. Hoeller.

She wasn't the nicest of ladies, but she was a pretty good teacher. She had all her students learn 10 songs, by memory, and record them at her house, and send the recording in to a competition. There is a song, "The Great Smoky Mountains," that I can still play from memory from this time.

For some reason, the next year we quit Mrs. Hoeller and got another teacher. I don't remember her name, but I remember she had her masters in Piano Performance. She expected that we perform all sorts of scales and our fingering had to be "just so." In the time that I took piano lessons from her, I don't think I ever passed a song off. I think I never even passed off the simplest C-major scale.

After that, I didn't take piano lessons again. I have had several callings at church, where I played the piano--and even organ. I have a piano at my house, but hardly ever play. I sometimes get the urge to play. I fear that I have lost a lot of my talent--not that I was ever a virtuoso, but I need to use it so I don't lose it.

So, thanks to Sarah Brightman...


The Ingermansons said...

You have the most naive mother in the world. She is also the most trusting!!!!! You should be ashamed of the scam you pulled on me.
Was your El Paso teacher Mrs. Walker? That is what comes to mind when I think about her.
One memory I have of your piano lesson days--I know NOTHING about music or piano or anything. You and Jennilyn were given, I think, the same song to learn. You practiced all week and it sounded sooooo very nice. I remember feeling so excited that you would go to your lesson and the teacher would love the song and tell you how great you were doing. Needless to say I was devastated when you played the song for her and she said that it was all wrong! She then proceeded to play it with the correct timing and it sounded totally different. That was my "you have no idea what your children are doing" wake up call!!
One night, when you were a young adult and you were playing the piano in the living room, Dad said, "I love to hear the girls play the piano!" It is nice to hear you play.
Please don't loose the talent.

Stephanie :) said... was Mrs. Walker! Thanks Mom for remembering!

Emily said...

I took piano lessons, too. My second teacher suggested I quit, though.