How I ended up a musician (I blame it on my parents)

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by Jan Seides
Saturday 26th September, 2009, 8:43pm

One of my little girl students asked me this week, “Can you tell what scale I’m playing without looking?”

“Yes”, I said, somewhat hesitantly. I’m never sure I should tell a student that, since I can’t teach them to do it.

“That’s weird”, she opined. “But kinda cool.”

In fact, that was the reason I got piano lessons when I was four. The most immediate use of the new  piano that arrived at our house was intended to be lessons for my older sister, and I was supposed to wait and grow interested (read: jealous) as I was presumed to be too young.  Well, the interest and the jealousy occurred in the first five minutes of her first lesson. Of course, all the adults ignored my desires, because that’s what adults did then, and I was summarily dismissed.

I’m not really sure why that happened, as at least a year before that, I’d memorized a song from the radio, and sang it for my mother. I know she knew I had the interest already, because she got very excited and had me demonstrate it for relatives and a couple of neighbors. Perhaps they just assumed I wouldn’t have the proper motor skills for the piano.

Then, one afternoon I was upstairs in my bedroom, probably cleaning it up – that seemed to be an ongoing activity in my childhood – and my mother was downstairs vacuuming.

“Hey, mother!”, I called from upstairs. “I know what note the vacuum cleaner is humming. It’s humming Middle C.”

Sure enough, she checked and that was the correct note. (Would I lie?)

Given that, and the fact that, on a different afternoon shortly after the vacuum cleaner event, I sat at the piano with my sister’s music book open in front of me, and picked out the (very simple, one-note-at-a-time) tune I had just heard her play. It suddenly dawned on me that each of those black dots on the page was one of the notes of the tune. I verified that with my mother, and taught myself to read music — or at least as many notes of it as were in that song and the ones that followed it.

We convinced her teacher to take me on too, and the rest, as they say…..

I point out to my students all the time how few of their classmates are getting private lessons on any instrument, and how fortunate they are to have parents that are willing to provide them. (Thus, they should practice more.) My father was very hard-working, and my mother had a chronic illness that resulted in some serious medical bills. And yet, part of the money was spent on music lessons for myself and my sisters. There are scenarios I can think of where I never would have been exposed to making music, and I probably would have become something else. Possibly a very unhappy something-else.

Needless to say, I feel very blessed and grateful.


Category: Music

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