Piano was my destiny.
I really believe that. From an early age, I was fascinated by the keyboard and the sounds. I was just past toddlerhood when I discovered pianos at both of my grandmother’s homes. Now that was a sign.
When I went to either Grandma’s house, I “played” and “played” some more until someone, usually my mom, said… “Enough! Quit pounding on that thing!”
I discovered that I could play by ear, sounding out Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Mary Had a little Lamb. My mom, yes the same one who told me to quit pounding, recognized that I had more than just an interest in making noise and annoying everyone around me. She began to attend auctions searching for used pianos. She found one we could afford and it was ours! It was no small task but we managed to move it into the house and parked it in the first room we came to – the dining room. I began my love affair with music.
The year was 1959 and the piano was an old upright piano that weighed a ton. It was not the most attractive piece of furniture in our home. It was covered with scratches and dings. The piano stool was a round one-seater style that would spin around pretty fast if you got it going. After about three mishaps with me flying off the stool and landing at the feet of my mom, it was replaced with a piano bench, with a heavy lid that revealed storage for sheet music and lesson books. It seemed like a bad design to me. That heavy lid smashed my fingers several times before I got that hang of it; the very fingers that I needed to make music!
The keyboard also left a lot to be desired. There were several ivory key covers missing and many were chipped. The key cover to Middle C was missing completely but that defect helped me locate my hand positions when I began to take lessons. F sharp was a clinker from the very start… I can still hear the twangy, awful sound that came from deep within the piano when I hit that note and I believe that the F sharp key on that old piano gave me an aversion to playing anything with sharps in the key signature.
The well worn pedals were difficult to push, especially when your legs weren’t long enough to reach, and they squeaked. There were a few keys in the bass area that didn’t play at all, in fact when you pushed them down, they stayed down until you pried them back up. As far as pianos went, it had definitely seen better days. But it was mine. A piano of my very own.
Mom quickly set me up with piano lessons in our little town with Miss Monce, who had quite a reputation as a great pianist and community member. She had already taught many willing and unwilling school age children to play the piano and was well respected by all. She provided me with a John W. Schaum keyboard chart that slipped behind the black keys on the piano. I caught on quickly and practiced until my fingers ached.
I progressed rapidly in my efforts and by the time I was twelve or thirteen I accompanied the Youth Choir at church, and played Pomp and Circumstance for the Eighth Grade Graduation ceremony. I moved on to accompany soloists (voice and instrumental) at High School Concerts and Contests and whenever I joined an organization that needed a musician, I took that office.
In the meantime, my Mom went to work at a local factory and found that she had a little more disposable income than she had ever had in her life. When I became a freshman in high school we took a trip to a music store and purchased a new spinet piano. It wasn’t brand new but had been used in the store to teach lessons for a few years so it was a bargain. Cherry wood, no missing key covers, no sticky keys, and it was in tune! The pedals worked perfectly and F sharp sounded like the voice of an angel. I was more than happy.
The old upright piano had been replaced. I don’t remember what happened to it. I missed it for awhile because that was where my love of music began.