My piano. Ah yes, my piano. This is not my piano, pictured, however it represents a beautiful piano. I have had a piano for almost 45 years. I learned to play piano when I was a girl from my teacher, Mr. Paul Jerome Miller. He was a well-known pianist and organist in the Buffalo, New York area. I took lessons from him for many years until his death. He was a kind and disciplined man, and I remember him as being good and grandfatherly. I was devastated when he died because I was so attached to him, taking lessons from him every week for many years. He was a perfectionist, he was exacting, and he pushed people to reach and exceed their potentials. This, along with his kindness and compassion, is what made him so great.
I love playing my piano. For the past 14 years, my piano has been in the finished portion of the basement of my home. At the time, that is where there was space for it. But, being in the basement meant out-of-sight, out-of-mind, so it was often forgotten. I have forgotten it no longer. Just over a week ago, I hired movers to bring my piano to my main floor, along with some large antiques that are family heirlooms, so I can enjoy them!
I have been thrilled and excited that I can now fully enjoy all of the antiques that have been passed down to me in my family, and to play and enjoy my piano! Just in the past week alone, I have sat at my piano, playing and playing away. Before I know it, already an hour or more has passed. It has been wonderful. Of course, the first couple of times I sat down to play, I was quite rusty and played the same songs, repetitively, many times, along with playing one hand alone in order to get the notes and keys down. Now that I have played for four days in the past week, I am already getting back to my old self with my “expertise.”
Certainly, I am no Rachmaninoff, but it is really wonderful to have my piano so readily available to me that I can sit down any time and play in a comfortable and enjoyable environment. I have really missed that. I have enjoyed playing so many songs recently, including “Paganini Variations” for the strong hands and arms; “Fur Elise” for the delicate touch; “The Beautiful Blue Danube” to feel like you’re dancing; and “Ave Maria” for spirituality and to give thanks.
Mr. Miller had me to memorize “Paganini Variations” almost 40 years ago. It is a powerful song, and he selected it for me to play in a recital – one of many in which I played – because he recognized my strong hands and arms. When I think back on it, I always find it funny because I wanted to play the dainty, delicate song, “Fur Elise,” but Mr. Miller wanted me to project my strength and power with “Paganini.” I must say that he knew me well because that has to be my all-time favorite song; I love the power that I can portray and project in playing that song – it is definitely mighty!
In elementary school, Mr. Miller recommended that I play clarinet in the school bands since it was similar to piano, and so I did. I played all throughout school and university. In high school, I also had a wonderful clarinet teacher, Mr. Donald Bollinger, who took me to the top, being the best I could be. I participated in All-County Band for many years, and in my senior year, I was Principal Chair of the First Clarinets. It was quite an accomplishment, especially with all of the gazillion other things I always did. Mr. Bollinger pushed me beyond limits – into a realm that I hadn’t even known existed. He knew I had the potential to be magnificent, and that is what he made me. Even during our lessons and practicing when I got tired and wanted to stop, he kept pushing me on and on. He truly must’ve seen in me what I could not see, and he brought it out. I’m so grateful for that.
It was a lot of hard work and a lot of practicing to be the best at clarient. My fingers were usually fine from all of the practicing, but my cheeks would get tired for constantly having to have the correct mouth position. The highest level to be played was Level 6, and that was my level. Looking back on it now, it was absolutely insane and I don’t know how I did it, but I think, after awhile, one just becomes mechanical and automatic – the mouth and fingers just know what to do without even thinking about it. My only disappointment with playing clarinet is that I was never invited to play in All-State Band. I’m sure there were likely a lot of politics involved in that type of decision, and my family and school were not that political.
I guess my next step is to dig out my beautiful clarinet and breathe some life back into it. My parents gave me many tangible gifts, including the gifts of music, song, and lessons. Now, I can sit down and more fully enjoy those gifts for myself. I can fill my house with beautiful music for myself. When I have nothing else to do, my piano is right there, calling my name – and I answer. It is lovely to get carried away by my piano – my friend that has been there throughout my life, through thick and thin, through happiness and sorrow, to uplift me with all beautiful and amazing melodies and memories.