Every day in first grade, I sprawled under the belly of our Steinway & Sons grand piano, mesmerized by melodies that rolled and crashed like waves onto my eager ears. I envied my brother's ability to play, begging my mother to enroll me in piano lessons. Debussy, Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven, and Bach – I was determined to play them all. I was impatient to play the "big kid" pieces. However, it did not take me long to learn that playing the piano was not as easy a task I had expected it to be. It took me years to train my ear to listen for and distinguish between individual harmonies and cadences. I taught my hand and fingers to curve delicately on the black and white keys, as if I was holding an egg. It took me hours, or even days, to polish a simple measure of music. I scoured YouTube videos of concert pianists and scanned articles from Clavier's Piano Explorer magazine, curious to learn every technique and form. Mrs. McCoy, my piano teacher, would always urge, "Catherine, music comes from within. You have to feel it!" My understanding was limited – my technique was mechanical and methodical, which worked for most of my pieces until I was presented with the Brahms Intermezzo. I mastered the technical difficulties, and yet, something was still lacking. It wasn't until later after two years of playing this particular piece that I understood what Mrs. McCoy meant. I needed to feel the music within myself, not just know how to play the notes. Overall, it took twelve years, but I have finally learned to combine the techniques I learned and passion for my music. Playing the piano is performing a story that incorporates both my mental and physical faculties. Every piece has a voice and a story behind it: love, anger, regrets. Learning how to play the "big-kid" pieces was not the destination. I discovered that the piano was, and still is, a journey that requires technical capabilities, but most importantly, the passion for playing found within.
A Musical Journey
February 15, 2012