I am learning to play the piano. I had several years of lessons when I was in elementary school, however, for all practical purposes, I feel like a beginner. I have the utmost respect for my teacher. I can not imagine the full extent of her patience in the presence of my repetitive mistakes and ear-jarring efforts. In addition, she has to tolerate my string of apologetic incantations, muttered with the unrealistic hope that sufficient apologies will improve my performance. So far, there seems to be only one clear predictor of musical success; practice.
Piano lessons have taught me the importance of letting go judgement of myself. My son plays piano by ear. I am moved and inspired with how utterly fearlessly he attacks a piece. Two-handed, all-in, he goes for it. When he strikes the wrong chords, I do not hear softly-spoken apologetic murmurings. No, almost instantly, the wrong chords are followed by a kind of musical fumbling until, yes, that's right. Then he starts over, incorporating the new chord into the piece. I liken his playing to being a trapeze artist without a net.
I am constantly amazed by how much trust comes into play. When I trust my fingers to go where I have taught them to go, when I trust the notations I made on the music, and when I simply surrender to the person I was when I first began the piece, I am astonished. Mozart might even recognize what I am playing.
One of my dearest friends is also studying piano. We are in the advanced-age group of sort-of beginners. She has gained my admiration because she is playing in a recital in a couple of weeks. I do not have the confidence nor can I sufficiently quiet my negative self-talk long enough to make me a candidate for such a feat. I am thrilled for her and wonder if I may feel differently about it next year. I had a professional musician call me to task when I said I didn't feel I played well enough for a recital -- I certainly didn't want to subject others to my beginner's playing. "Well, that's rather the point, Dawn, to play music for others regardless of what level you play. Music is for an audience."
Now that I have had time to gather my thoughts, I would beg to differ with him. Music means different things to different people. When I play the piano, I play the piano because it brings me joy. It is for me. Any audience (foolish enough) who gathers does so of their own volition and at their own risk. The take-aways are all bonus lessons in life that I treasure because they are hard-earned and I never went looking for them in the first place!
Four Piano Lesson Takeaways
1. Practice what you love to do; you will get better.
2. Let go of judging yourself; try living without a trapeze.
3. Surrender to who you are, trust yourself to find your way.
4. Do what brings you joy.