It was faint, but I knew it in a heartbeat. It was the sound of patient, dutiful learning.
Yesterday morning’s walk took me through a familiar neighborhood, past a house that I’ve passed time and time again, but there was a new sound coming from it.
It was a sound I knew well, because I lived it for more than ten years. Piano practice. Steady, diligent piano practice.
I wondered if the practicing was ever accompanied by the study of music theory like it had been for me almost 30 years ago. I wondered if there was a metronome clicking away next to the pianist, like a stern, no-nonsense school teacher rhythmically thumping her ruler. I wondered if there was a competition or a recital on the calendar, and I wondered if any of the same Mozart or Beethoven pieces would fill the house the way they filled mine growing up.
I used to hate practicing. In fact, I wrote notes to my parents and left them on their bed on numerous occasions. Pale yellow highlighter on white paper (I liked making it difficult to read my requests, apparently) scribbled out my wishes in ways only an eight year old can conjure up:
“If you loved me, you would let me quit.” It seemed logical enough to me. After all, practicing for hours on end was little fun compared to hours of playing with friends or with Barbie dolls.
The most I got during all my years of lessons was a slight adjustment to the songs I was learning. Instead of classical, I was allowed to switch to contemporary pieces. So the learning continued, and I had a renewed interest in it. They never really gave in to my quitting at the time it mattered most, though, and I’m glad they didn’t. Not being allowed to take the easy way out during one’s younger years is…priceless.
Sometime during high school, however, the lessons stopped. Wouldn’t you know it? I missed them. I wasn’t checked out of music entirely, as I traded the keys for a bass guitar as well as a six-string. But shelving the lessons was yet another adjustment that brought about a new chapter of piano playing. It was a chapter driven by my own creation, my own melodies and my own interpretation of how to make a spirit soar and how to quiet a soul. Instead of going the classical route thanks to composers past, I was going my own route. It felt amazing. Music rooms in my college dorms became my go-to activity when I had down time, and more than once someone would knock and ask to come in. Maybe they missed their own years of piano lessons, too.
I don’t think I was ever one to practice in the morning, as late afternoon and evening feels more familiar when I think back on those years. But tonight I am thankful for yesterday morning’s walk which took me down memory lane, and for the stick-to-it-ness that my parents — as well as a few piano teachers — instilled in me. Quitting is easy, but sticking with something and finding a new love or appreciation for it is priceless. For knowing the value and benefit of not giving up, I am most grateful. Thanks, mom and dad.