My childhood pastime of choice was ballet. I started lessons with Miss McAlpine at a studio above a Chinese Restaurant in New Plymouth when I was four years old.
I always dreamed of being a ballerina, but my genetics had other ideas. When puberty arrived with wide hips and swelling breasts, it was obvious to everyone I would never be a professional dancer. Perhaps to make up for this cruel blow, my mother and father purchased an upright Yamaha piano and organised piano lessons for me.
I hated getting up on cold New Zealand mornings and going to the lounge to practice. The room was at the opposite end of the house to the kitchen and dining room where everyone else was having breakfast, and I wasn’t allowed to turn on the heater.
I wasn’t particularly gifted at interpreting the black notes and complicated time signatures on my piano pieces, but I did have a good ear. I could imitate anything I heard on the radio, and most importantly, anything I heard at church.
By the time I was fourteen I was playing the piano for church services. I manipulated a congregation of hundreds of people into ecstatic worship through the chords I played during ‘praise and worship.’ I could still do it for you now.
The first inkling I had that something wasn’t right with my faith, was while I was sitting in front of the piano. As a reverent hush settled over the room at the end of a lengthy session of worship, I had an almost irresistible urge to slam my hands down on the keys of the piano to shatter to silence. For many, many months, I had to fight this impulse.
One of my mother’s best friends was dying of bowel cancer. Her stomach was so distended she looked as though she were pregnant. My mother told me that her friend wanted to listen to her favourite hymns before she died. I remember sitting at the piano at my parent’s house and recording songs on to a 30 minute cassette. When my mother’s friend died, I played at her funeral.
I didn’t play at my brother’s wedding because he was married in a Brethren church in another city. The second time he got married was in Fiji, and none of us were there.
When I was kicked out of the church, I stopped playing completely.
I still have an instrument although I don’t play it very often. It’s a Yamaha electric piano with weighted keys and sustain pedals. I can still bash out ‘How Great Thou Art’ and ‘Amazing Grace’. I last played it to teach my boyfriend ‘Advance Australia Fair’ so he could sing it at his citizenship ceremony.
Sometimes my mother makes an offhand remark about how I’m wasting my gift. Maybe I am. But it is interesting to note that even though I threw away almost everything from my old life, I kept the piano.
Just knowing it is there is comforting.
Perhaps one day, I’ll find a good reason to play it again.
Do you have a talent that you neglect?
What instrument did you learn as a child?
This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge.
25 thoughts on “P is for Piano • #atozchallenge”
Since I’m a church organist now, I find your story interesting. I started learning how to play the electronic organ at the age of six. My parents made me to take lessons because I was a hopeless musician. In those days, nobody dreamed I would be playing the organ in public. 🙂
An A-to-Z participant
Organs are a whole different thing with those foot pedals. Well done for being able to manage them because I can’t.
I gave up on piano lessons very early on.
I think it’s a common concept that people who are blind have an extra sensitive ear and are good at playing the piano, but I am the exception then.
I played clarinet for a year in high school, but gave it up. Too much blowing. Made me lightheaded, but I think I wasn’t bad at it while it lasted.
An interesting undertone to this post for the letter P and I will be reading more.
I understand what you mean about wind instruments making you lightheaded. I played the flute for awhile and the same thing happened.
Hey, you shouldn’t stop from playing Piano and blessed you are for being so creative. I regret not learning to play a musical instrument.
As they say, it’s never too late!
I WISH I had an old talent like that. I’ve always wanted to PLAY the piano, just never wanted to LEARN to play ;o) Beautiful story.
Thank you, Susan. I think I was the same way which is why I never became a concert pianist. If only I’d concentrated more … 😀
Never had the ear, or desire to play piano, although we did have one. Some of my sisters played. I strummed a folk guitar. Joan Baez with a haircut. The only way I could play was to read the music and put my fingers where the notes went. All mechanical, not musical. The piano is a part of you, Katie. Maybe you’ll just want to sit down and start playing someday.
“Joan Baez with a haircut” = glorious x
AlWays wanted to have the natural ear for playing and ability to share that with others as you describe. My mother made me take piano lessons as a child, but instead of a piano, we had this crazy giant organ with a double decker keyboard and custom sound switches that my father built from a kit. It was a beautiful instrument but terribly confusing for me to get the keyboarding and the key and pedal feel you need for piano. Funny now to think about my poor piano teacher.
Yeah, organs scare me too. They look as though they’ll eat you if you do the wrong thing.
Wow, sometimes I think we are living parallel lives. My parents made me go to piano lessons from the age of five. I hated it, and the concert recitals we had to do, and the old battleaxe of a woman who was my teacher. My parents gave me the option of quitting lessons when I reached 13, so I promptly quit after my grade 5 exams and never touched a piano again.
Lately I have felt a yearning to pick it up again and am in the process of buying a keyboard. I now know an outstanding pianist in Sydney so I think it could be the time to start again where I left off, nearly 40 years ago. There is something magic about the piano.
Once it gets in your blood, it stays there, Dave.
Good luck with the new keyboard.
Life is short, do what you love.
Great posts for the Challenge.
Keep it up!
Heather M. Gardner
Co-host: Blogging from A to Z April Challenge
Blog: The Waiting is the Hardest Part [http://hmgardner.blogspot.com/]
Thank you, Heather.
Today, we both posted about our relationships with the piano. http://bit.ly/1zt4lLC Mine was a love/hate relationship, mostly hate, until my father died and I saw the Rolling Stones. Both events changed my life profoundly. BTW, I’m also on MidLife Boulevard.
Hey Brenda, nice to connect with you here.
I loved your post.
As a kid I just wanted to play guitar. Guitar in my mind was cool. My mom thought ‘you worked your way to guitar ‘ by beginning with piano. Of course, there was a lovely old piano in our house, but no guitar. I was uninspired and rarely practised – plunking slowly on the keys in desperation before my weekly lessons. Finally she relented and let me switch to guitar. I remember a nervous crush on my first teenage boy instructor and my sad realization that I had very little musical ability – no matter what instrument I strummed.
Oh dear. Well at least you got a cute instructor. I only had an old woman with a hairy chin and biscuit crumbs around her mouth.
Thanks for this story…. and thanks for teaching me how to play the piano by ear when we were Sunday School friends! (This is the Day!) x
So interesting reading your P is for Piano story. When we were first friends (gosh, were we 9 years old!) I too wanted to do ballet (not as much as you though by the sounds of things) but my famiy couldn’t afford it. However, you did teach me to play the piano by ear and I too, like you, played the piano in Sunday School and then went on to play in church too. My first paid ‘gig’ was at the age of 13 … a funeral would you believe in Patea! I always loved playing in church … and now, at 49 (eek!) I still do! Having played in bands and stuff it can’t compare to the added spiritual dimension of playing with worship (but that’s my story). Possibly when you felt like slamming the piano keys that was an indication to you from your heart that all was not well and you could see things and you weren’t happy. That’s no good 🙁 …but imagine if you had … that would have been another story!! But you didn’t!
Still, there is church playing, or playing in bands, and there are old memories that surface with old songs. There is however something about playing at home with a good keyboard, which you have, and the headphones on … just pouring out your feelings. I guess like writing. I think you have done the right thing keeping your piano and I’m sure one day, and hopefully soon, you can sit down and the music within will reach your fingertips and your heart will be laid bare as you play … I see tears rolling down your face. A gift is never wasted … it was a gift for you. It doesn’t come with obligations. x
Thank you for your lovely comment, Joanne. It’s crazy to think about when we were kids all those years ago.
I love the idea that gifts don’t come with obligations. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it like that before. Thank you for fresh eyes x
Oh, I love the piano. It’s my favorite of all the instruments. Although I never could play that well, I’ve always missed the piano lessons of my youth. I hope you pick it up again someday.
I will if you will 😉
Yes of course we do neglect our talents. I don’t know how to play any instruments but i was training in vocals and was not too bad either but I did not follow it through. Wish I had though!
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