Slice of Life Daily Writing Challenge – March 23, 2021
“Guess this song,” I said to my husband as he followed the sound around the corner.
I played a few more measures and he nailed it. “Longer, by Dan… Dan… Dan Fogelberg? he guessed.
“Impressive!” I beamed.
I was sixteen when I fell in love with that song. I was also sixteen when I fell in love with my husband, although we didn’t marry for many years later due to all the growing up still ahead of us. I’ll save that love story for another time.
“Wow! How long has it been?” he asked.
“A long time. Since before my thumb surgery. At least two years,” I replied. I lifted the bench seat and judging from the top of the pile where The Snowman, by Raymond Briggs lay, it could be even longer since I usually pulled that out around Christmas time.
Since it’s not Christmas I reached for next up in the stack, Phantom of the Opera. Flipping through the pages, I hesitated at All I Ask of You and began to play with plenty of missed sharps and flats at first. Despite the lost finger dexterity, the song eventually emerged, sounding somewhat recognizable.
“Keep playing,” he encouraged sitting down to listen.
Plunking away I began to realize how much I missed sitting at my piano. “Thanks for listening, “ I smiled.
I eagerly began taking piano lessons in second grade from our church organist and continued on through middle school. Once I hit high school though, I begged and pleaded to quit. Recitals were a source of anxiety. Practicing dropped by the wayside as friends and school groups took precedence. Reluctantly my parents consented, but not without resistance, so I promised I’d pick up where I left off someday. I even continued to play the piano and found delight in selecting my own music. However, once I was off to college, opportunities to play were limited and my skills declined.
Surprisingly, the promised someday came during my semester of student teaching in a kindergarten classroom. My supervising teacher played the piano daily, integrating music throughout the school day. She included movement with songs like The Hokey Pokey and Johnny Works With One Hammer and the Freeze Dance to sharpen listening skills. Each and every holiday brought new songs to learn. I didn’t realize the Alphabet Song and Bingo were the same tune behind the songs celebrated as new. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now that the ability to hear rhymes in all of those childhood songs taught the sounds of language, the beginning of learning to read and write. Mrs. Burzlaff played the Clean Up Song to signal clean up and students knew to be done by the end of the song. A true master teacher, she cleverly adjusted the tempo in order for students to successfully finish cleaning up at the same time the song finished.
I wanted to possess that same magic for my own classroom someday, but quickly realized how challenging it is to play the piano and sing at the same time, all while monitoring behaviors and giving directions. It was time to find myself a piano instructor. My parents were thrilled. I made good on my promise.
Eventually I did learn to sing and play at the same time while monitoring behaviors and giving instructions in my own kindergarten classroom and did so for many years. I added new songs to my playlist as my skills allowed. Songs like I’m a Little Pumpkin, Over the River, and Bluebird, Bluebird. I always made room for a piano despite the addition of computers, changing curriculum, and disappearing teacher desks and housekeeping centers. It was an essential item and rarely seen in classrooms other than those designed specifically for music. I was not a music teacher, but I could play piano.
Playing the piano is not like riding a bike, but with some practice I can work my way through the stack of tattered music in my piano bench. Below is my very outdated playlist that’s been on pause waiting for me.
- Yesterday by Lennon & McCartney
- Brian’s Song by Michael Legrand
- Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven
- Psychedelic Relic
- Sunshine on my Shoulders by John Denver
- Beethoven’s Fur Elise
- The Entertainer & Maple Leaf Rag
- The All Year Long Kindergarten Songbook
- Endless Love by Dianna Ross & Lionel Richie
- My Love by Lionel Richie
- Book of Worship Hymns
- Way down near the bottom of the stack rests my Hanon Practice Books 1 & 2, which seems like an obvious place to start practicing and should immediately be moved to the top.
Underneath it all, the foundation of the pile, there is a yellowed copy of Teaching Little Fingers to Play with a price tag of of 65 cents and a newer edition priced at $4.95 from my daughter thirty years, which today sells for $6.99 on Amazon.
It’s time to teach my fingers to play again.