Piano

Lisa
4 min readJul 15, 2021

--

Beethoven Quote

Before cello, there was piano. I always wanted to play an instrument growing up but none of the brass or woodwinds appealed to me. That’s all I was exposed to when they began having music ensemble classes, and I vaguely remember playing the recorder.

When I got to high school, there was an elective for a group piano class. I immediately signed up and was hooked. I begged my parents for a keyboard. I didn’t even want to get all 88 keys because I saw how expensive it was, and I already felt guilty for asking them. My parents were kind enough to get me one, and I still have that keyboard to this day. I wanted to continue taking that class, but I ended up moving from Alabama to Georgia. I went to two different high schools in Georgia, and they unfortunately didn’t offer any piano classes. I joined chorus instead and remember getting into a lot of hilarious trouble with my friends. Unfortunately, aside from choir, my musical studies came to a halt.

Fast forward to freshman year in college. I had no idea what to study. I applied to the community college down the street because I could transfer to another school once I get my core classes done and figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I distinctly remember walking into this tiny building in comparison to all the others on campus. It was the music building. I opened the door, walked in and instantly felt at home. There was a sense of calm and ease. I then decided that’s what I wanted to do. It was pure instinct. I had my visual arts to fall back on if I decided it wasn’t for me, but this was my opportunity to finally study music.

And holy shit was I woefully unprepared.

As a music major, you have to take four semesters of group piano classes where you learn scales, chord progressions, piano accompaniment, and improvisation. Every single day the piano professor would come by each of our keyboards and listen to our scales, chords and pieces of music we were assigned. I’ll never forget this. I could not stop my hands from shaking because I was so nervous. A sense of panic would arise, and my fingers would trip over each other. It was my first experience with imposter syndrome. Everyone else there had studied music throughout middle, high school, whatever. I just walked in one day and said I could do this.

Then there was music theory. That class has a reputation of weeding out those who were serious or not. I was literally that meme of the confused lady with the math equations running through her head. I had no idea what the Circle of Fifths were and how that constructed scales or the intervals between the chords. My first year of freshman college was like drinking water through a fire hose. I actually ended up failing music theory that year and sunk into a massive depression.

To top it off, in my piano class, we were all asked to name our instrument to study and everyone individually announced their respective choices. When it came to me, I chose piano. My teacher then said I would not be able to take that as my major because I’m not at the appropriate level of proficiency, and she was absolutely right.

Another crushing defeat. Naturally, I was heartbroken.

With the classical music community, there are so many barriers to entry. In this industry, it is expected that you would have begun playing music before the age of ten and continue to study with the expectation of getting into a prestigious music school. Your parents have to be involved as well taking you to lessons, rehearsals and making sure you’re practicing 40 hours a day. Not to mention the cost of private lessons and buying an instrument which can easily run a few thousand dollars. The music industry is notoriously difficult to be successful in let alone the fine sophisticated world of classical music.

In spite of everything, I persevered. I briefly considered switching majors and then never had that thought again because there was no other option for me. It was all or nothing. I took music theory again and would stay after to get additional help. In between classes, I would go by the professor’s office and ask for more help. I was going to understand music theory no matter what and the second time around I made a freaking A.

With piano, even though I couldn’t choose that as my instrument to major in, I could still play it in jazz band. My first ever music performance was playing Duke Ellington’s In a Mellow Tone. If you’re not familiar with the piece, the piano has a prominent role accompanied by the band. Most students would have had experience playing in an ensemble growing up, but I didn’t give it much thought and threw myself into it.

I’m sure I was an anxious mess leading up to the concert, but I remember everything going so well during the performance. It felt natural. When it ended, the jazz band director said my name aloud and gestured towards me as one of the soloists. I was not expecting that and awkwardly stood up for applause. As I hear the sound from the audience wash over me, I knew I had made the right choice. It was such an incredible feeling, and I’ve been chasing that ever since.

--

--

Lisa
0 Followers

I like to create experiences and share stories.