28 October 2008

Playing the Piano

I started piano lessons when I was in first or second grade. I used to bicycle over to the old lady piano teacher’s house – until one day, when I got there and found a sign on the door: No Lessons Until Further Notice. It turned out she was dead. The next piano teacher drank. She'd offer you a little glass of juice, and she always had a little glass of juice for herself. But hers was laced with vodka. The third one was a short horrible woman with tiny hands. I have big hands – I can easily span an octave. She couldn’t. And she’d tell me to finger something the way she would, and my big hands would get all tangled up. I loathed her.

My fourth and last piano teacher was the music teacher in my junior high school. He was a metrosexual, long before that term was coined. He worked out at Jack La Lanne, drove a convertible, and created a clicque of personality around him. He also taught us a lot about music. His classroom was very close to the cafeteria, so it became a lunchtime hangout for the music theory nerds amongst us. Painted onto the blackboard was a thermometer shape – like the kind the Community Chest puts up in front of the post office each year to show how the fundraising is going – but in his classroom, it was the Hostility Meter. If too much sass and sarcasm started flying, someone would run up and increase the level of the Hostility Meter. He also dated the widowed mother of a classmate, and years later, was accused of impropriety in the classroom. I know he was verbally inappropriate in my day, but now it’s politically incorrect and therefore verboten.

All those years of piano lessons, and I can’t play a damned thing on the piano except the Bach Prelude in C where you never strike more than one note at a time.

21 comments:

Anjali said...

I'm a piano dropout as well. I could never figure out how to read notes. All I know now is Mary Had a Little Lamb.

Rima said...

I love me some piano teacher stories. There's just something about piano teachers, isn't there? And the Hostility Meter - now there's an idea. We need a national one, methinks.

FreshHell said...

I read music really well but I never practiced and then was frustrated that my playing never got any better. I had an alcoholic music teacher, too. She was a divorced friend of my mother's who she met at church. Eventually, the drinking got so bad she stopped showing up for lessons. And that was the end of my piano lessons.

RuthWells said...

I had something like 9-10 years of piano lessons and I miss playing. Every once in a while I sit down and pull out my old music and get depressed at how much ability I've lost.

Playing regularly is on my list of things to do when I retire and have all the time in the world...

flutter said...

sorry, you lost me at jack la lanne, I started snorting and coughing

S. said...

Funny, because I was just thinking about my own piano lesson experience...I took lessons from my second-grade classroom teacher, and continued for a few years. She was a Quaker, and lived even further out past the edge of gentrification than we did, and had a lot of stories about the dumb criminals on her block.

nonlineargirl said...

Until further notice? Was her family planning on bringing her back to life to teach some more?

Library Lady said...

I play by ear mostly--I used to love to play chords with the left and the melody with the right to sheet music for 70s pop songs--back in the 70s.

Alas and alack I have no piano and I have no room for a piano. But I do have a keyboard and when I need to do a song for the library I can read the music and figure out the tune.

Oh, and whenever I go into a store with really good keyboards I play "Fur Elise"--which is the one tune I really learned from my several weird piano teachers...

Ree said...

Well, obviously. Too many teachers. ;-)

I'd love to learn - wanna come teach me? I only need to learn one song.

Aunt Becky said...

I played concert cello for many, many years. And I have a feeling if I were to pick one up again, I'd fail miserably.

KC said...

I'm a piano lesson reject meself. You would never know I took lessons for many years. Hardly ever practiced. I could tell my midlife crisis piano teacher was often displeased.

Angeline said...

*laugh* I'm sorry I laughed...not at your 'misfortune' but it completely amused me, cos' here I am blaming my parents all my life that they can't afford to send me for piano lessons, yet here you are, hmmmm... (maybe) hoping that you didn't have gone through all those lessons... *laugh*

crazymumma said...

Yes. but the story is excellent.

i'd most likely be the teacher with the 'juice'.

Mayberry said...

I had such a great one. You'd have loved her because for the month of December, she put all lesson books aside and we only played Christmas carols. Also, she didn't believe in recitals ever.

Kyddryn said...

I can neither play piano nor drive stick-shift for the same reason - I cannot coordinate my hands and feet to do different tasks at the same time.

To learn piano pieces, I had to learn each part note perfect and THEN combine them, which took four times as long as the other students and was one of the many reasons I gave up my music scholarship (I was a vocalist and never did understand why they insisted I be able to play piano - as long as I could pick out my part and learn it, what did it matter????).

Shade and Sweetwater,
K

cactus petunia said...

Ooh...Brings back memories of Sister Mary Guzman. I remember her as a giagantic, red-faced, bad tempered nun, who'd rap my knuckles with a ruler when I missed a note. I missed a lot of notes.

I find trying to read music these days is like trying to read a novel one letter at a time.

I only play now when nobody's home to hear the dogs howling along with me.

wheelsonthebus said...

All those years of spanish and my kids speak it better than I do.

I need a hostility meter in my house.

jen said...

i'm with flutter on this one.

phd in yogurtry said...

I'll listen to your Back Prelude in C and feel all kinds of jealous while I'm applauding like hell. I can't play a lick. Always wanted to.

That teacher was just jealous of your gloriously long fingers, you know that, right?

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I think they were called "Dandys" before they were metrosexuals.

julochka said...

i'm so happy to hear i'm not the only one! 9 years of piano lessons and i can't play a thing!