Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Old Friend

My stomach hurt off and on the whole morning. One big ball of nerves and excitement, I counted down the minutes until I could tear out my door and down the hallway sidewalk. "Do I still remember the code for the briefing room?" and "Argh...I hope he's not offended that my piece is in bad shape!" swirled through my thoughts. Besides all of this, there was a blue ribbon on my sweater and I felt special. (Because, I know you wanted to know)

Sure enough, I punched in what I remembered on the lock and it worked! First hurdle jumped. Next I scoped the room -- guitars lining the far wall, a circle of chairs just where it always is, and empty, perfect. I sat down at the keyboard; the chair was too low and there were no books around for me to sit on. Oh well.

I pulled out my piece, laid it out, and dove straight into trying to play it. Someone walks in the room, I just keep playing. (Second hurdle jumped). My cheeks are already turning pink and my fingers are probably slightly shaky.

Of course I kept looking at the clock; I was five minutes early, and was slightly nervous..."We haven't talked about it for a few days...what if Jon forgets?" Silly me, of course he didn't forget. Right on time, my piano lesson starts.

My piano lesson. Sigh. It's been a year since I've had one of those.

He's kind, as some piano teachers are. (Hallelujah for kind piano teachers!) I'm nervous, as new piano students always are. (Let's have some breakthrough, people). Of course I attempt to play the piece for him, of course it hardly works. My fingers fumble all over the place, I can't manage the note patterns I've been playing for a year, and I stop in the middle of measures, cringe and mumble "I'm sorry". Like any good piano teacher (well, the nice ones...see three sentences ago), Jon keeps trying to get me to just play the piece: "It's's okay...just slow down..." Gosh, you'd think I was playing in Carnegie Hall.

I finally got to the point in the Mozart where I stopped being even somewhat comfortable, and fumbled around for my excuse of "and...after that, I just don't really know."

Once the first awkward playing was over, it was back in the rhythm of a piano lesson, just as if it HADN'T been a year. And it felt...


We talked about wrist-loosening up, and how important the fingering is, and OH. MY. GOODNESS. I need to take my time and slow down and just learn the notes. It was nothing revolutionary. Wait, scratch that.

My last teacher was amazing. I never felt pressured by her to perform perfectly, she was sweet to me no matter what, she always had expert advice to give but never put me or my playing down. She was seriously such a gift, and I adored her. I didn't think it could get better. Until Jon started talking about the fruit of the Spirit and how seriously, we just have to give up perfectionism and ask the Lord to give us a spirit of patience while we practice. This was the first time I had a fabulous experience musically combined with practical piano-discipleship. We need more of that in the music world.

After Mozart came practical tips on improvisation and how to build my ability in that and better the worship-piano side of things. The whole thing made me feel so at home.

I left, and wanted to cry I was so happy. I had no idea I missed piano that much. I don't know exactly what it is...there is something so familiar about a piano lesson. When the teacher sticks their hand up on the keys to show you how it's done and they have perfect finger curve and have the weight they give their fingers worked out to a science as if it were a Chemistry lab, something feels so right. Nodding and saying "ya, ya..." to all the tips they give you comes like second nature, and you just leave bursting with the desire to make beautiful, beautiful music...make it with your own fingers. It's wonderful.

Later, in telling my sister about it and trying to describe parts of it that made me happy, she identified one key one: "He spoke your language!" It felt like I'd been speaking Portuguese in Canada for a year and all of a sudden someone walked up to me and we discussed the current economic state of our own language. Jon was showing me some improv stuff, and I asked with a tinge of pre-emptive disappointment: "Did you do jazz piano?" His face lit up and he practically yelled: "NO!" and I practically exploded, half because it felt so validating to be understood right away. I have never done jazz piano, I've never wanted to, but it seems the best way to learn improvisation, which you use in worship piano. Instead, Jon studied classical music (those guys really knew how to make simple chords sound way cool) and tried to copy what he heard in all sorts of styles.

Hoorah. I can live without jazz piano.

Lastly, I felt so validated. You can say you play piano all you want, but I've spent a year reminding myself that I play but then sitting down every few weeks and having it not sound nearly as good as I want it to. It makes me sad that my pieces are rusty, and it felt really good to have an expert pianist say: "I can tell you've been trained really well..."

Can you tell I loved it? Next up: must. practice.

Anybody have a nice piano I could borrow? :)


clayton said...

you loved it. i loved reading it! language is such a gift, especially when two people speak the same! I'm glad you're taking lessons. O that I could've been a fly on the wall for that hour. =)

Elisa said...

That is so awesome! Dan got me a keyboard for my birthday because I have always wanted to learn to play. I just need to find someone to take lessons from too. Bless you as your Spirit comes alive in a new way for piano!