When my mother was alive, she loved to talk about an incident from my childhood that I don’t remember. When I was about five years old and we were living in Tucson, Arizona, my parents acquired an upright piano. I don’t know what brand it was or if it was new or used. It was intended as a toy for me, but one day, my mother heard me playing the opening notes to Beethoven’s fifth symphony and decided it was time to call a piano teacher.
I loved playing the piano, especially making up melodies and harmonies, which impressed my parents. I didn’t like the piano lessons so much because I had to play these boring exercises, then some classical pieces by Bach and Mozart, which I loved listening to but found hard to play. Because of my limited vision, I couldn’t read music. So, Mother had to teach me the pieces I was required to learn, and she had little patience. However, I endured the lessons until I was twelve. By that time, we’d moved here to Sheridan, Wyoming, and my mother had given up insisting I take lessons.
I enjoyed playing popular songs. Friends taught me how to play “Chopsticks” and “Heart and Soul,” which are two fun duets children can play together. My mother and I often played classical duets. I tried teaching her “Heart and Soul,” but without sheet music, she couldn’t or wouldn’t do it.
After we moved to Wyoming, I started using the piano to accompany my singing. When I was a freshman in high school, my father encouraged me to take a jazz improvisation class. But like classical music, although I enjoyed listening to jazz, I couldn’t get the hang of playing it.
As a junior in high school, I won first place in a local talent competition with my rendition of “You Light Up My Life.” My brother, seven years my junior, got a drum set, and we often had fun playing and performing together with me on piano and vocals and him on drums.
In college, when I majored in music for four years, I had to endure more piano lessons and learn to play classical music again. But I survived, and during my senior recital, I managed to do a decent job of playing Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor.
Once I started training in music therapy, I was free of the obligation to play classical music. Since I decided to focus primarily on nursing home residents, I used the piano to accompany my singing of standards from the earlier part of the twentieth century, which were popular when many older people were growing up. After I got my first apartment and job here in Sheridan, my grandmother gave me her piano, an upright Kimball, since she didn’t play. Others in my family were musical. My grandfather played the saxophone, and two uncles played piano and guitar. But since my grandfather had passed away and both uncles were no longer living at home, Grandma didn’t want the piano. I was delighted to take it off her hands. I’ve moved three times since then, but I’ve always found a place for it and treasure it still today.
I no longer work as a registered music therapist, but I entertain at nursing homes and other venues. So, I use the piano to practice what I’ll perform. I recently started playing the piano and singing in on-line talent programs through ACB Community Calls, a series of activities held on Zoom, sponsored by the American Council of the Blind.
In case you’re wondering what happened to the original piano my parents bought, my nephew in Colorado has it. He teaches piano and writes songs, and I hope he’ll make good use of it. As for my piano, as long as I’m able to play, it’ll be with me always.
How about you? Did you ever learn to play a musical instrument? Do you still have such an instrument today? Please feel free to share your memories in the comment field.
New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me
Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.
Independently published with the help of DLD Books.
Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.
After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.
Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.
Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?