With all but one of my children driving and displaying functional levels of independence, I recently decided it was time for me to revisit one of my first loves: playing the piano.
A 25 Year Break
Despite a serious music education in my youth and college years, the normal things got in the way of my playing the piano in young adulthood. My job was demanding, and daily computer use with bad posture made my forearms hurt. When babies came along, I wanted to rest when they rested, or else my practicing somehow exactly coincided with their need to be held or fed.
So it has been 25 years since my last piano lesson, and about 20 years since I performed a solo work in any sort of public setting. Sure, I’ve accompanied my kids’ Suzuki recitals and played hymns in church. But even my kids’ demands got too much for me when they started playing concertos and the orchestra transcriptions were too taxing for my out of shape technique.
Taking the First Step
But it seems like the time is right now to carve out some time for myself again. I starting by emailing a piano professor at my local university. I’d heard her name in various musical circle in my city, but I’d never met her personally. I had no idea if she’d accept adult piano students. Amazingly, she wrote back to me. I thought perhaps she’d recommend a colleague or someone more junior, but she said that she’d be happy to hear me. She likes taking adult students because they bring a different perspective to her piano teaching.
Setting My Goals
We spent most of my first lesson just talking. What are my goals? she asked. Honestly, my first goal is not to hurt myself. Having suffered from radial tunnel syndrome early in my working career, taking care of my forearm is especially important to me. My next goal is to play music I love. I have no interest in memorizing pieces – too many memory slips on stage haunt my past! – but I would be interested in perhaps playing for other adults now and then. She said she’d actually been thinking of putting together an adult performance class. Perfect!
I played a movement from a Mozart sonata that I had played on my senior recital in college. It had come back into my fingers pretty easily since I knew it so well previously. My runs were uneven, and playing it for the teacher felt like skydiving off a cliff. But it gave my new teacher an idea of my current abilities, but also the extent of my past training. She then sent me away with the assignment of cataloging all of the major repertoire I had studied as a student.
I really enjoyed going through some of my old music – yes, I’d carried it with me for decades through multiple moves! – to remember what I’d played in the past. And since I could do what I wanted now, I came away with some new goals: work my way through all Bach 2-part inventions, play lots of Scriabin and Grieg, explore more 20th and 21st century repertoire, and don’t play any Liszt!
A Little Everyday
My only goal this week is to play a little every day. That in itself is new for me. I’m careful about not tiring out my muscles, staying relaxed, taking breaks and just getting my brain to connect to my fingers once again. But it’s already a joy to revisit this creative side of me. And my kids only asked me to stop once this week so they could hear their movie. I’ll take it.