Last Great Piano Hit This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

October 9, 2013
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For most of elementary school I took piano lessons with Evelyn. She lives on a farm right in the middle of Corrales and runs the whole thing pretty much by herself. She’s really old and grew up in Corrales, coming from a family of Italian immigrants that came to New Mexico in, like, 1920. She always wins blue ribbons at the State Fair for her pies and has a stand at the Grower’s Market every fall. Evelyn is pretty much a celebrity in Corrales and she’s very sweet, but I dreaded her weekly piano lessons. Each week was just doing scales on the piano and then practicing whatever bland piece Evelyn had picked out of her 50-year-old piano book for me. When I was ten, there was going to be a recital in the spring that I had to play in, and it was going to be my last one. My mom had told me that I did not have to continue with piano lessons once I started middle school, and I was excited. So I made one of my parents drive me to a music store to buy a book of sheet music for famous movies. My last great piano hit would be Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, better known as “The Titanic Theme Song”.

I first saw the movie Titanic when I was in fifth grade and my parents decided that they were going to show my sister and me all the good classic movies. This included Ben Hur, To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone With the Wind, a lot of Clint Eastwood and Andrew Lloyd Webber, and many other random movies that were beyond the mind capacity of a ten-year-old. Obviously, one of those movies was James Cameron’s Titanic, which was kind of inappropriate thinking back (Kate Winslet was probably the first naked woman I ever saw in a movie), but I became obsessed with it. Completely obsessed. It was weird. I didn’t have a crush on Jack; I think I actually liked Rose more as a character than Jack, and I have never been a very romantic person. I just thought that it was overall excellent, and the aesthetics of the movie seemed to really move me since it was the first movie to ever make me cry.

I made one of my best friends, Olivia, watch the movie with me and she too became obsessed. Every time we had a sleepover we stayed up really late to watch all four hours of Titanic, quoting along and crying together. For Halloween that year, I dressed up as Rose.

Specifically, Rose when she’s half dead and freezing in the ocean. I covered myself in white powder and painted my lips and cheeks blue and had my mom put white stuff in my red wig to make it look like ice. I had to explain the costume to a number of people, but I felt pretty good about it.

The Céline Dion song just came as a bonus to the movie. Now, it definitely isn’t the type of music that I would normally listen to, but when I was ten I didn’t have a type of music and I though that the song was pretty. I thought that the soundtrack was prettier, though, because it had the same tune as “My Heart Will Go On”, but without Céline Dion. It was made clear that in order to play the song at the recital, I did not have to sing along, so it was pretty much perfect.

It was a difficult piece for me, though, as an unenthusiastic student who never practiced her scales, but I practiced this piece. A lot. I mastered all those runs until my fingers bled. I pressed the pedal all the way down into the foundation of my house. I memorized every rest, every beat, every crescendo and decrescendo, and every single freaking key change. I played the notes in my sleep and sang it in class and on the playground and at dinner and in my room and with Olivia and all the time. I dominated that song.

The recital was where Evelyn’s recitals always were: in the San Ysidro Church, or the Old Church. I sat with all the other piano students in the left transept in a black and white polkadot dress with a sunflower on the waistband. My hair was tied into a delicate half-up half-down thing and I sat up straight holding my sheet music. The church was packed to the brim with parents and family and random Corrales people who enjoyed those sorts of things. The performances went by age, so I was near the end (most people, it seems, want to stop taking piano lessons after fifth grade, like me). I sat through about an hour of “Ode to Joy”s and “Mary had a Little Lamb”s, until finally I got to go.

I confidently walked up the black grand piano (we got to use the nice piano for these recitals), which was next to the altar and put my sheet music on the stand. Evelyn was next to me to flip the pages. I was nervous, of course, but I was also bursting with excitement and anticipation. I was flushed with adrenaline as I arched my fingers to begin. I played the piece perfectly. I did not miss a single note. It was confident and loud at all the right parts and quiet and sad at all the other parts. It was long and legato and dramatic and violent. I captured my entire obsession for Titanic and let it flow out of my fingers and into the piano. All the other kids had received little golf claps after they performed, but after I held the last C chord out as it rang through the church, I lifted my foot off of the pedal and the room burst into applause. Everyone in the church was standing and cheering and grinning at me. I was the star of the entire recital. I collected the “My Heart Will Go On” sheets from off the piano, stood up and smiled, curtsied, and then retired from the piano forever.

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