Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mom's Pestering Pays Off

Mom never asked me if I wanted to take piano lessons. She just told me I was doing it. I grew up with musical sisters, so this was no surprise.

Practicing the piano was a daily event for me--usually after supper. I play it about every day now too as an adult. It brings stability to my psyche.

I started piano lessons in 3rd grade, the year I got eye glasses.

When I first started lessons, Mom would sit in the black swivel chair in the corner of the dining room quizzing me on the musical notes and symbols with flashcards. As I practiced, I would hear her flipping through her favorite reading materials: Good Housekeeping and The National Enquirer. She hid The Enquirer and other Hollywood gossipy magazines in the China closet.

Mom with me in front of the black chair she sat in when I practiced piano.

If I went on to a different piece too soon, I would hear, “That was not five times hands apart. Do it all again.” And I did. Probably with a roll of my eyes.

And if Mom was not in the house due to plowing up some field for Dad, my practice time was pretty short. Then the next week I would be explaining to Mom why I did not pass it at my lesson.

Oh, to be a little girl again with Mom around in her silent pride of watching me develop into something she was never given the chance to become. Mom could play a couple pieces by ear, but she could not read music, so it was important that her daughters knew how. I do not know if she had the same expectations of my brother, 20 years my senior.

Clarinet lessons at school started in 5th grade. I think I am a 6th grader in this picture.

As I grew older, my practice time increased. I had graduated from the Dozen A Day warm-up books to Hanon, a rigorous set of exercises. When I play them today, my young-girl frustration returns. My fourth fingers are still weak--especially the left one.

But Hanon enabled me to play tougher pieces. My teachers, for I only had two throughout the nine years I took lessons, were both meticulous. Maybe that is why people today call me picky.

my first piano teacher, Lillian Horn

Through their prodding, I seemed to become an accomplished pianist who earned superiors. No lower than a superior-minus one year, and on two different occasions, I earned a superior-plus. But I still do not think I am that good. I just practiced a lot.

I cannot sight read. I cannot play hymns. I cannot accompany a singer or a musician. I play only classical.

Yes, I play the scores whose pages are often blackened with more than an octave stretch, pass overs and unders, trills, and change of key. But really, I am not that good. It took me forever to learn a piece--but I did learn it.

I auditioned and earned the privilege of playing in front of my largest crowd ever: 1983 Girls' State in Mitchell, South Dakota on the campus of Dakota Wesleyan University. More about representing my high school there in future posts.

Here is the note telling my Girls' State counselor I got the nod to play.

The type of persistence piano playing teaches is like none other. See, for those who know my rat terrier nature, I blame it all on the piano. One has to be tenacious to learn Holberg Suite by Grieg. It took me two years.

Even with success, Mom would still say, “You sure didn’t practice very long. Go do it some more.” The older I got, the more audible complaining she heard. But Mom never really argued back. She was good at ignoring my whining and griping.

Then my senior year came, and she did argue back. “You’ve only got one more year. Next year, you’ll be at college." I was not even thinking of the senior recital I had earned.

Ruby Matson, my piano teacher ~ Heidi Krutzfeldt & Lisa Brisco with me at our senior recital

So, I kept on a-playing. Kept on a-whinin' too. Only now I also complained about playing the prelude at church, playing the offertory at church, playing the postlude at church, and griped that Arlene Decker and Barbara Gross, our regular pianists, wanted me to do her job.

This self-centered teenager did not understand that those women were actually complimenting me when they allowed me to play instead of them. And Mom just kept on saying, "You're not gonna quit."

I am so glad she did not let me.

And today when I can still sit down and play, rusty--really rusty, I can almost hear Mom holler from another room like she did when I was a teenager, “That sounds just beautiful, honey. Play it again.”

Thank you, Mom. It seems you and Dad gave me a name that suits.

me on my sister Brenda's lap--eyes on the keys of the piano that I first learned on

Did your parents ever make you do something you grew tired of? How do you feel about it now? Share how it has shaped who you are today by commenting below.

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