"Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then, it will be a really good day." Louie Schwartzberg
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A Gift Neglected or Newly Given...Playing the Piano


posted by Susan Dominikovich on ,

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I love music.  I was put through piano lessons as a child and am eternally grateful for that foundation in music and music theory.  Unfortunately we had a stubborn apartment type piano.  Stubborn because although it never did anything wrong, it found ways to resist my touch.  Pressing the keys was never a joy, always a chore.  So at a fairly young age I managed to persuade my mother to let me give it up.  "You'll regret it one day," was her response but she agreed.  

Sure enough as a young adult I went to concerts and concertos and wished oh wished I could play like that.  I would stare at a concert pianist and be mesmerised by their fingers and the sound that came from their instrument.  My parents had long ago sold our stubborn piano, and so with my hard-earned savings from working summers in the gift store at The Butchart Gardens, I bought my first piano, a second-hand upright grand, and also paid to have lessons with a beautiful pianist and friend.  I managed to complete the exams for Royal Conservatory Grade 6 and while I didn't pursue it any further, it is something of which I am very proud.  I wasn't a concert pianist and never would be, but I could play my piano and enjoy it.  

My parents have kept my piano at their home in Canada and it is a thing of loveliness.  It looks pretty, plays well and sounds perfect.  Not an ounce of stubbornness in any of its keys.  It really is a beautiful thing and I miss it.  

When Paul and I bought our first home in Inglewood, a 100 year old draughty villa, I very quickly found and bought a second-hand piano that in every way, suited the house.  It was fairly cheap and full of borer bug but it played well and became a part of me.  For several years I played it occasionally.  As I got busier with four pre-schoolers, I neglected it horribly.  I let it get badly out of tune.  When we moved house four years ago, I tried selling it instead of moving it.  No one wanted it, so 6 men and their muscles moved my piano to a perfect corner of my new house.  Gathering dust and becoming even more out of tune.

I have been involved in worship at my church for the past few years.  I sing, and have discovered that I can naturally pick up a harmony in my range in most songs.  While that ability comes from having sung in choirs most of my life, it also stems from my piano lessons and training my ear for music and sounds.  We have a couple of keyboardists in our team at the church and when I'm singing with them I have always asked if I can stand next to them, using the excuse that I like to hear the piano chords so that I can pick up my harmony notes more easily.  Secretly, I was watching them.  I was watching their right hand flit gently over the accent notes and their left hand finding a basic rhythm.  

At some point last year I developed a plan.  I knew that a lot of people had taught themselves any number of skills via YouTube.  Anything is possibly with YouTube.  So I decided I would teach myself how to play by chords and had my piano tuned.  I was embarrassingly greeted with the piano tuner's "tsk tsk", obvious that my piano hadn't been played in years.  

I had copies of all the music with their chords from church and I had a basic knowledge of chords from my background.  In fact, as I sat down to have a go at the first song I found in the key of C, I fell into an easy rhythm that a friend of mine had taught me years ago.  He was a brilliant pianist and could play by ear.  Somehow, something clicked and over a few months, it all came together quite easily.  I tried many songs and explored different rhythms and chord progressions.  After finding a useful app on my Smartphone, I expanded my chord vocabulary.  I never got to the stage of needing tutorials on YouTube but I did listen to a lot of music with piano such as James Blunt and Missy Higgins.  I guess you could say I immersed myself in the keyboard.

From there I plucked up the courage to actually play in church.  I had never played with anyone before, let alone in front of anyone.  Our music leader was kind enough to let me choose the songs that morning, songs I was confident playing.  And it went well.  I have played with other musicians since then and I am now almost confident enough to sit down with a brand new song and be able to play it.  Almost.  I still allow some negative self-talk to rule my brain when it comes to something particularly challenging, but even then with a little help, I've been able to play.  And there is nothing I enjoy more than to sit down at my piano and get lost in the chords, playing little melodies of my own and worshipping with my own words.

All of this has happened within a space of six short months.  And while I know I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go, I honestly believe there is nothing natural in how far I have come.

Every day I marvel and wonder at God's gift to me.  I am not saying that I am a gifted pianist--far from it.  But He has given me the gift of being able to play, quite easily and sometimes beautifully.  Every day that I can play, I thank God for blessing me and I pray that I can bless Him in return with my music.  I hope I never take it for granted.  I hope I never make it about me because my playing is entirely about Him.  

I suppose it is possible that this gift has always been there, neglected by me or at least never fully explored.  Rather, I am inclined to think that this gift, as with other gifts of the Holy Spirit, has developed in me when I was ready for it and when my heart told me to seek it.  It is there for such a time as this and it is not for me to ask why or how.  It is just for me to use it.  Thankfully.  Gratefully.  Beautifully.

Next plan...ukelele?  I would definitely need YouTube for that one.


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