It’s summer, so I’m back with more of The Meme-ing of Life, ready to tell you more about my experiences with trying new things. Ever since I started taking ballet lessons when I was little (which I talked about in my previous post, Ballet Beginnings), I became accustomed to taking on new hobbies. I had ballet lessons and tap dancing lessons when I was about six or seven-years-old. Then, I had swimming lessons and art lessons for awhile when I was a little older. And in sixth grade, I discovered a new interest of mine: playing the piano.
Like most of the hobbies I pick up, my interest in playing the piano kindled because someone else influenced me. My classmate showed off her impressive piano skills when I would occasionally hang out at her house. Most of the time, she would play classical music like “Moonlight Sonata.” She would have had the opportunity to play on the three pianos placed around our middle school, if it hadn’t been for the administration that didn’t allow any students, whether they knew how to play the piano properly or not, to play on the pianos. I still think it’s nonsensical that those poor pianos barely got any use. It’s as if the administration thought the only purpose of a piano is for decoration.
A piano is far from a solely visual object, especially because of its versatility in music. It could sound flowy and soothing, or upbeat and jazzy, or light and playful, or irregular and eerie. I don’t think many instruments can play the melody and beat in different octaves simultaneously like a piano can. I also like how the piano can complement any other instrument. So, I wanted to take a shot at this too-good-to-be-true instrument. At the time, I didn’t have a piano or a keyboard to dabble around with so I looked to the internet and found a virtual piano to practice on. (This is the one I used for awhile.)
In the summer between sixth and seventh grade, my parents enrolled me in one-on-one piano lessons at a music school a couple blocks away from my house. In the first few lessons, I learned the basics: the notes on the treble clef, how your fingers line up with the notes, and how to practice scales. I was excited to go to my piano lessons, especially because my piano teacher was patient with me. We switched between reading sheet music, exercising my ability to identify notes auditorily, and learning about beats and rhythm. I enjoyed when she would play me one of the complicated songs she knew because the intricacy of the song inspired me to get to her level. Once I borrowed my cousin’s keyboard to practice on, my playing improved since I was now able to practice at home. Over time, I learned how to play intermediate songs in a bunch of different genres. Among all the music I learned how to play, from jazz to classical to creepy, my favorite song to play is “Into the Unknown” from the Cartoon Network mini-series Over the Garden Wall. (Here’s what it sounds like.) By seventh and eighth grade, my teacher encouraged me to perform in a couple recitals. There’s nothing extremely interesting to share about them. I was nervous every time, but at least my uncle, auntie, and parents were sitting in the audience.
In eighth grade, the only thing on my Christmas list was a piano. I eventually got one with the help of my uncle, and it was probably one of the best gifts I ever received. It is a beautiful, wooden, vertical, Yamaha piano. I could sit at it and practice for hours everyday if I wanted to. If I was stressed out and needed a break from homework, I could sit down and play for fifteen minutes and feel completely refreshed afterwards. Compared to the keyboard I borrowed, the piano had pedals, more keys, an authentic sound, and resistance in the keys. The keyboard didn’t have weighted keys, which means there wasn’t resistance when I pushed down on them. Weighted keys are crucial because they are touch sensitive. The harder you push down, the louder the note. The resistance can also strengthen your weaker fingers, such as your ring finger and pinky.
One of my most notable experiences playing the piano was performing in my school’s annual talent show in my freshman year. I picked a song that I learned in my piano lessons, and practiced it whenever I could. I was tremendously nervous playing the piano onstage, by myself, in front of a couple hundred people. I was the only solo instrumental act, everyone else was either singing or playing an instrument while their partner sang. However, once I started playing, the nervousness faded and the notes came to me without thinking, it was all muscle memory. That’s my favorite part about playing the piano. Once you are comfortable with a song, the notes, that you initially absorb by looking at sheet music, flow from your fingertips to the piano to be emitted as sounds. Before I knew it, my performance ended and I didn’t make any mistakes.
Another notable experience occurred at my aunt’s funeral during the summer between my freshman and sophomore year. I wanted to help out with the funeral arrangements, but as the youngest person on my dad’s side of the family, there wasn’t much I could do. So, I agreed to play the piano in the church during the funeral. During the somber occasion, I played the uplifting I’ll Fly Away by Alan Jackson while my other aunts sang. Looking back, I’m glad I found a way to contribute to the funeral.
In sophomore year, I wasn’t as enthusiastic to go to my piano lessons. Soon after my performance in my school’s talent show in my freshman year, my piano teacher quit because she was having a baby and wanted to stay home to take care of her/him. I still liked playing the piano, but for a couple of months, a different piano teacher would come in every week because the school couldn’t find someone to replace her. I wasn’t learning anything because the work that I got done the previous lesson was temporary as a new teacher came in and we had to start all over again. Eventually, I quit piano lessons, but I was dedicated to practicing in my free time.
In my junior year, I was busy. I was focusing on my studies, participating in my extracurricular activities, and sleeping off my exhaustion whenever I could. I wanted to invest my time into playing the piano, but I didn’t have any free time, so I unintentionally stopped playing the piano altogether. Since it’s summer and I have free time now, I’ll try to start playing again. I don’t intend to let all my practice go to waste, but I can’t make any promises. College applications are coming out soon and I’m going to be busy again, but if I ever get too stressed out I can just sit down and play my piano for a few minutes and I should be fine.