Piano practice persists in our household. Daily, our adult daughter thumps out Mozart classics, ragtime, and a few songs from Star Wars. I don’t mind the noise, I mean music, even when the sounds curdle my brain. Imperfect practices lead to perfect performances, or so the cliché wants us to believe. But I do believe music encompasses more than sound.
When I was a kid in Washington state, piano lessons were mandatory for two years. Mom would shuffle me and my four siblings to Mrs. Courteau’s brick house once a week for lessons. My older brother and younger sister were naturals. Or they paid attention and practiced, either way, they improved to performance level, in front of people other than family and obligated parents of other students during piano recitals. When grown and married, each with two children, all four of my nieces and nephews became piano students also.
My younger brother unambiguously marked the calendar and quit piano on the 730th day after he started lessons. He hasn’t touched a piano since. “I’d never force my children to take piano lessons,” he told me years ago.
The middle sister and I quit piano lessons before we were seniors in high school. Probably because we’d rather spend thirty minutes watching Gilligan’s Island on television rather than practicing piano. Although, the change in activity didn’t require much thought. Whether watching TV or practicing piano, our priority was casual snacking. Piano keys jammed with cookie crumbs.
After I went to college in Colorado, I was shocked to find myself searching for a door to a large brick building, after hearing piano playing through an open window. After finding the door, I walked into the foyer and acted as if I was majoring in music. Not horticulture.
To map out the music building, I walked the halls and noticed small rooms, each room containing a beat-up piano and bench. This discovery initiated a quest to find piano books. A hymnal from church was a cinch to acquire, and thus I began what amounted to piano therapy for four years of college. Which in turn, after getting married, piano playing was my marriage therapy, then mother-calmer, then a tool for our children to practice on, then empty nest friend. Christmas carols always a favorite.
Middle Sister has pianos in her household also, however, it’s because she restores them to former glory after decades of neglect in a barn or storage shed.
I brought a used, dandy piano to Warwick. Our six-year old granddaughter and three-year old grandson sit with their mother and thump high and low end keys while she plays. Sometimes, our son-in-law takes his violin and bow out of its case and plays along with the piano.
No lack of wrong notes played. Timing nonexistent.
But they keep practicing, week after week, and I notice my ears slowly agreeing with my heart, which knows that harmony and order have never been broken or lost. Harmony exists, alive and well, and can be found in the slightest movements and tones.