Hooked on Classics
Growing up, I took years of piano lessons. Years. So many years that I started competing, my feet navigating the footstep mysteries of the proper approach to the instrument, the correct posture on the bench, the appropriate but not distracting mix of dramatic body language, and of course, stroking on the right keys. I never wanted to master the art of the sideways Liberace fake smile while I played, but once in a while, I forced myself to break a sweat or bounce up and down on the seat. Anything to draw the eyes of the judges away from how much my pedal leg shook.
In third grade, I was deemed capable of playing Chopin‘s Nocturne in E Flat Major, a soft, unassuming piece of classical fare that didn’t interest me. I didn’t really like any classical music when I was eight, and I didn’t have the self-discipline to make myself do things I didn’t enjoy. Practicing just enough but not too much, I earned my teacher’s pencil check mark on the bottom corner of the last page of the piece, well before the chords ever came together. Relieved, I stuck that piece of torture in a box and moved on to grander, showier fare. Liebestraum. Malaguena. Heavy handed sessions of gang banging the ivories.
At thirty-nine, I decided to renew my interest in piano and signed up for lessons with a private instructor. She came to my house and thumbed through my collection of music, listening to me knock a few things around at the keyboard. Here she said. This one. This is where you are.
Chopin’s flipping Nocturne in E Flat Major.
I slaved for weeks. Playing it wrong to find new riffs. Forcing my fingers to follow the fingering scheme my teacher scribbled underneath each set of notes. Practicing runs until I could do them blindfolded, until their trilling noise woke me at 2am. I never loved a piece of music so much in my life.
On a whim, I decided to have MTM record me playing it. The quality isn’t great, but I still can’t believe I retrained my fingers to do those light, graceful things. That in the process of capturing sound, we got the only recording of my dog Jazzmine, sniffing with impatience in the background as she forced her way down the stairs, her claws clicking along to the tune I played, always and forever the little star.
It is my favorite piece of music for piano. Because I made myself learn it. Because Jazz loved it, too.
Do you have a musical genre you grew to appreciate as an adult?
This post is part of the series The Soundtrack of Life. If this is your first visit to the series, please click here for the first installment, click here for the second, click here for the third, click here for the fourth and here for the fifth. MTM wrote a great guest post, which you can find here. Thanks for your contributions and insights in the comments. They always enrich this blog, especially in a series like this one.