A violin teacher tries her "hands" at piano playing
by Rhiannon Nachbaur of Award-Winning Fiddleheads Violin Studio
As the back to school flyers pour in and I visually digest the crisp images of mechanical pencils and Shrek lunch boxes, I am compelled to seek out new learning opportunities to make the rainy dying days of summer a smooth transition into winter. Between Toastmasters Club, community orchestras, night classes at OUC and a botched attempt at learning saxophone five autumns past, I have realised my school-aged programming has left a permanent impression: I see brown leaves and I run for the nearest sign-up sheet.
I decided this year, after having delved into expensive hobbies and projects started and soon abandoned, to limit my fall learning frenzies to those activities which are affordable, work well with my busy life as a wife and mother and which I am sure I will stick to long-term.
So I went out and bought a piano.
Affordable? Not really. It set us back from buying a new couch, but as I explained to my loved ones that if you dexterously avoid the gaping holes and sharp jutting springs, the existing couch really is quite comfortable.
Non-intrusive to my family? The thing takes up half of my living room and almost all of my attention, resulting in several burned suppers, neglected piles of dishes and ignored phone calls. Things of little importance when I am immersed in a snappy rendition of “Polly Wolly Doodle.”
Which leads to the last criteria: Will I stick with it long-term? You betcha!
To be honest, I did not expect this new musical venture to be this successful. I've always wanted a piano in my home; my German heritage nagging, “it's not home unless it's got a piano.” As a violinist and violin junkie I've never much cared for piano music (I know I'll get heat from my piano-playing colleagues for that one).
I figured I'd noodle around on it here and there, waiting until my preschool-aged son was taking lessons for it to be studied on, as my past ventures in new instruments ended with me giving up from frustration.
As the burly piano movers heaved the massive antique into place, one of them wheezed, “Someone had better learn to play this thing.” Though I was down with a gawdawful flu the day the piano arrived, I played it for hours at a time, ignoring my 39-degree fever and laryngitis.
I started with the basics: “Twinkle Twinkle” and “Mary had a Little Lamb.” I found the whole “two hand, two clef” concept a bit of a hurdle, like severing one half of my brain from the other then asking them to co-operte. After three days of inspired practice (and leftovers for dinner) things seemed to click and other songs flowed more easily.
I've discovered I'm really good at this, a real natural! I play a wicked two-handed “Chicken Dance” and I'm pretty solid at the first page of Beethoven's “Moonlight” Sonata. Ok, fifteen years of violin playing and a college music education probably has something to do with that, but let me dream!
In the past learning a new instrument, or anything new for that matter, was unbearably frustrating because didn't like feeling like a “beginner” and set unachievable goals. I enjoy playing piano far too much to wreck it with guilt or self-doubt, so I am softening my expectations and have surrendered to my vulnerability in starting over again. This humbling experience has gained me far more respect for my students who, like me, are beginners in an instrument.
It feels like I'm back in school again with all the other kids, learning and growing with my mechanical pencil and lunch box, singing “Poll-y Woll-y Doo-dle all the day!”
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