Last week, I wrote a blog post about my piano teacher entitled “Looking For Mr. Weiss.” The story touched a nerve with me. As it unfolded through memory and emotion, I realized my years of learning how to read music and to play the instrument was one of the most valuable lessons of my life. It was ten years of exasperating practice, fumbling fingers while fighting youthful distractions like TV, playing with friends, or listening to records all for the purpose of completing a piece without error. I didn’t know it as a spotty kid, but now I value this gift of music like it’s precious gold. This – despite enduring living room recitals for company, encouraged by my dad, where certain members of my distended family would roll their eyes. Riiiggghhht…because I loved playing for this group as much as they loved listening. The feeling was mutual.
My ten years as a student of Mr. Weiss affected me deeply. The very fact I can play an instrument is extraordinary. No, I can’t just sit down and play “Summer Highland Falls” or gather a group of cocktail addled friends around the old piano for an impromptu rendition of “Fame” nor do I take requests. But I can sit down and plunk away a mean sonata – after many days of rehearsal – with the music sheet in front of me. It’s even cooler to know how to read music, as if it’s a secret language that is communicated through melody, beats, rhythm and sound. To be able to create it, is just as satisfying and mystically compelling as writing a book or a satisfying blog post.
Sadly, my father sold our Steinway and Sons piano when I left for college. Yet, I’ve picked up the piano here and there over the years. About 15 years ago, I had a small Yamaha electric keyboard I laid on top of a desk on which I played simple sonatinas, since there were only about 70 keys on the thing. Playing as an adult is a different experience. I have a deeper understanding of life and how music folds personal emotion into the flow of a piece. My brain finds a beautiful, peaceful portal where you can capture a deep, focused, meditative state when you’re really playing something you like well. After a work week filled with business and responsibilities, being able to play an instrument such as the piano, allows a certain cleasning of the mind. It’s time well spent, beating TV, Internet and video gaming. I long to return to this amazing practice.
When my little Yamaha keyboard broke, my reacquaintance with the piano was shelved. Life took over. I kept my music sheets handy in case I was able to find the room for a piano. A real one. As an apartment dweller – I’m still holding out for an actual piano. However, I do have some space in the corner of my home office which has prompted my decision to purchase a digital piano complete with perfect key action and pedals. There will be a headphone jack so I can play in silence, and a volume button, so when I’m not using “cans”, I can crank it up to show my neighbors during reasonable hours, what this student of Mr. Weiss can do.
It’s time to return to my music. Time to put all the money my father paid to provide lessons to good use. Time to honor Mr. Weiss.
(And by the way – Looking for Mr. Weiss has inspired a book I’m currently outlining.)