May 20, 2010

Play Us A Song.


I do not know when I started playing the piano. I have a vague memory of a piano in a room in our house in Visalia, California and a vague memory of a babysitter teaching me what the notes were. I remember feeling determined to learn a song. I think that was the last time I ever felt that determined feeling :) The first song I taught myself was the top hand of I'm So Glad When Daddy Comes Home.

I am sure I went through the "Heart and Soul" phase....everyone goes through that phase....you know, the phase where you learn Heart and Soul on the piano and every time you pass a piano you can not resist the urge to let the world know that you know how to play Heart and Soul. I have a lot of questions about this Heart and Soul thing...who started it? Who decided this is the song that I am going to make sure every kid between the ages of 8 and 12 in America learns? You know the song, right? BAH BAH BAH, BAH DAH BAH DAH BAH DAH , BAH BAH BAH, BAH DAH BAH DAH BAH DAH.....

I do not know the exact moment I started piano lessons. I do not even know if I begged my parents for them or if they just randomly decided they wanted me to have lessons. The first piano teacher I remember having was Glenn Crocker. He was my piano teacher when we lived in California. Of course now I know that he was an amazing teacher and I wish I could go back and take advantage of his "amazing-ness" more than I did. Regret....I do adore you :) I do not know if I practiced without being nagged. I do not know if I ever begged to quit piano. You would think if I hated it I would have some memory of that. I do know that while my sisters were outside raising sheep, cows and pigs for 4-H I was in the house playing the piano so I must have had a love for it. Thank goodness the butcher does not have to come and visit your piano :)

I do remember trying everything in my power to get my teacher to play a new song once through so that I would not have to work as hard to learn it because then I would know how it sounded.....I think it is called laziness.

By the time I was eleven someone caught on to my piano playing ability and I was officially asked to accompany the singing time for the kids ages 3 to 12 in our church. From then on I was always playing the piano at church. My first piano solo was Minuet in G by Bach and I still remember that day and I still love to play that song. My first piano recital a fly flew up my nose while I was playing my song.

When I was in high school I tried out for a chance to sing in the Jazz Choir. I did not make it as a singer but the teacher asked me to be the Jazz choir accompanist. I did not know then that I was more the classical sort of girl, not the improvise, play be-bop sort of girl. I guess everyone involved should have realized that anyone who wears dresses almost everyday of high school, mostly preppy dresses, had the most common name in the world, never wore leg warmers, and never dyed her hair a different color was not cut out for accompanying the Jazz choir. But no one knows that stuff in high school. Jazz does not have many rules it seems to be more what you feel and I am pretty sure you know I prefer to suppress what I feel and thus tend to embrace the black and white classical world. I worked hard at accompanying jazz choir but I think I was a huge liability to the choir and it still haunts me. I did not even realize that I was just not the jazz piano playing type until my 20th high school reunion and Dean Edwards who was in the Jazz Choir band with me declared to me that I was not a bad piano player I was just a classical pianist not a jazz pianist and then I had that AH HA moment that explains everything :) Better late than never.


When I went to BYU I played the piano quite a bit. Someone was always looking for an accompanist, or someone to play a duet with them and I enjoyed it. But there was this one time that I had to accompany a girl for a talent show. She sang that song that has the line..."and all that jazz." I can not remember the name of the song but it had some tough, fast piano moments and I did not have enough time to practice and I was not proud of the job I did. I found myself feeling tired of playing the piano. Wanting to be known for something else. I really like to do what I do perfectly with no mistakes. Yeah, hello reality :) Give me a small break I was only 18 :)

Well I got married, had kids, and went many years without a piano in my house that I could practice on. My skills waned and I lost my confidence. No one in Princeton or Kansas knew how much I knew about piano and I was fine with that. I loved having a chance to be able to do other things. I learned during this time that I loved to teach and speak in public something I may have never known otherwise. There are not many people who know how to play the piano so when people find out you play you rarely get a chance to do anything else. Near the middle of our time in Kansas my dad surprised me by getting me an upright piano. Growing up we had owned a beautiful K Kawai baby grand piano and I loved it. We had a huge empty living room with only the baby grand piano sitting in it. I would play and my friend Evelyn would have plenty of room to do ballet moves to my music all over the living room :) I guess once you pay for a piano like that furniture moves down the list of needs. I had always hoped it would be my piano someday but when my family moved to American Samoa they had to get rid of the piano so I never got it. Turns out that I have never lived in a house that would accomodate a baby grand easily so then my dad would have had to get me a better house...it would have just been messy :)

When I moved to Massachusetts I for some reason started playing the piano again. I am not sure how it happened. Before I knew it I was even playing the organ in church which was very awkward since I have never had a lesson for the organ in my whole life. And just for the record it is not like playing the piano in any way. But I muddle through. I love to play but I feel very isolated from everyone when I am always behind the piano. You know me and my social needs :)

I still have the piano my dad bought for us in Kansas in the 1990's it has gone through a move to Indiana and a move to Massachusetts with volunteer movers who tend to accidentally drop pianos. Now that I play the piano in church all the time again I have sadly noticed my piano is not very good. There is a huge difference between my home piano and the pianos I play at church. Our piano bench is wobbily,the notes do not sound right, the keys stick. I feel guilty even possibly making you think I am not grateful for it. I really never would have known what I was missing if I did not play the piano every week in church.

Zach plays the piano. Madeline played the piano....(don't ask about the use of the word "played," she was so good at it I think I am still mourning her exit from the piano world :) Amanda took a few years of lessons and now I am currently torturing Tatiana with lessons. The keys on the piano that stick frustrate her so she is always asking to quit. But once I figured out that she was only asking to quit because of the condition of our piano I have made her stick with it, that is really no excuse to quit. She has these amazing, long, slender fingers that really should not go to waste :)

I remember when I was in college I was discussing with the other pianist in my church congregation how I sometimes wish I could have a different job at church and she surprised me by scolding me for not being glad I could share my talents. I try to remember that every time I long for something else to do at church. Something that would let me have time to get to know people. Something new that would help me to grow in other areas of my life. Ungrateful, evil, old me....SIGH.

4 comments:

DeAnn said...

Jennnifer,
I know exactly how you feel. Since we have lived in Iowa and Wyoming, I have been permanently affixed behind the piano. And the organ here as well. I am sad to say I run from playing the organ to the primary room to play there. By the time I play postlude in primary, everyone is gone. I really don't know anyone in our ward or get to socialize at all. It IS nice, I suppose, to share my talents, but I could REALLY REALLY use a little socializing too!!!

Anonymous said...

Join the club. If you have most ANY calling in church there is not time to socialize. Invite someone over for dinner. Join a RS group or start your own group. If you want to socialize then make arrangements to do so. Sorry, I feel the same way, and I don't play the piano or organ. Sundays are about Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Jen, I could not have imagined Jazz Choir without you. At least for me, it was such a part of my senior year. We were a big, sometimes disfunctional, family. Not only did you bring your talent, but your joy, laugh, and sense of humor.
Erin

Kristy said...

Anonymous #2 must not know you very well if he or she is offering Jennifer Baird advice on how to socialize outside of church! That made me laugh. :)