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Mendy Smith

Branching Out

July 1, 2009 at 6:45 AM

Bringing Max (the piano) home a year or so ago was all about having a piano in the house for others to play in ensembles.  But it seemed a shame to continue like that for so long without ever learning how to play it.  So tonight I had my first ever piano lesson.  Once I got past the fact that the book I'm starting out on is filled with cartoons and children's songs, I got down to the business of learning how and where to put my fingers, re-learning how to read bass clef, and getting used to new left-hand finger positions that seem totally backwards. By the end of the hour, muscles I never knew I had were sore.

My new friend down here in Houston is my teacher, and still is my friend after tonight's lessons.  It was alot of fun, even if he almost smashed my fingers with the keyboard lid by accident (or so he says).  I was playing "Row Row Row Your Boat" in two part harmony by the end of our lesson - in a manner of speaking.  A huge accomplishment in my book.  One interesting thing I noticed was that my right hand is just as stiff as it is with the bow on viola.  Maybe  this new adventure will help me learn to relax the hand and help in my viola playing.  The one good thing I can say is that I don't come with any "piano baggage" that has to be un-taught.  That is if you exclude some of my counting quirks and playing notes & rhythms that are in my head vs. what is printed.  Maybe going back to the bare basics will help me overcome those quirks as well. 

I thought that my summer viol-a-thon was over, but no.  There is still more to come.  Next is playing in a pit orchestra for the play "Oliver", performing Handel Sonata for 2 violas at the Church with a harpsichord, then what I've been looking forward to since I moved down south - Interlochen!!!!  The theme this year is the "Magic of Wit", though I'm still scratching my head over how Brahms can be remotely witty (several Brahms pieces are on the repetoire list this year).  I'm looking forward to meeting up with Joel again and exchanging stories of our adventures. 

So far, Houston has been treating me quite well.  I found a good viola teacher, a new best friend (violist, stand partner, and piano teacher), and have become more musically active than ever before.  There is not a day that goes by without music being a part of my daily life in some form or another.  Though my hours of sleep have dimished significantly, I'm happier than ever being so involved in the local music scene.  Maybe the opening fall season will be a little less hectic - or not.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on July 1, 2009 at 2:28 PM

Playing the piano is so much fun!  I've only had a few lessons, ever, so I'm sure I have plenty of piano baggage, but I still love it.  I think it's a lot easier to sound tolerable, sooner, on a piano than on a stringed instrument.  Enjoy it!

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on July 6, 2009 at 8:08 AM

I agree with Karen, and so does Itzhak Perlman in "Art of Violin," that it's much quicker to get tolerably good on the piano than on the violin.  Are you up for some instant gratification?  Enjoy.

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