As the door closes behind me and the room is locked, completely soundproof, before me is an instrument which is instrumental in my life, an old friend whom I go to see whenever I can, with my busy schedule. As I take a seat on the bench, I smell the same old familiar smell of fine wood and feel the polished keys. Folding back the piano cover as I’ve done so many times before, I start to clear my mind. This is what the whole process is about, and I do it because I love it.
I still remember my grandmother teaching me on her piano in Pompano Beach, Florida all those years ago. “Heart and Soul,” forever a classic, was the first song she taught me. Even now after her passing, I still have cherished memories of us playing and learning together.I can still picture a Christmas Eve when, side by side, we played Christmas songs for the family, everyone having a good time. It was I who wanted to learn to play, but I never followed through with the lessons. I finally got a keyboard for Christmas one year, and I started playing it that night.
Sitting here at this piano reminds me of the time I played for my first girlfriend. I did my best to impress her with “How to Save a Life” by The Fray. I remember the thrill I got from seeing her smile. Picking it up much faster than I had, she learned both parts of “Heart and Soul” that day. Playing that tune brings back the good memories and the bad ones associated with that relationship, too.
Sitting here, I remember.
My aunt asked me to play at her wedding, a song for her to walk the aisle to, and so I did my best to come up with one. I put together a medley of two songs, “To Zanarkand” by Nobuo Uematsu and “River Flows in You” by Yiruma. Once I got the go-ahead, I started playing, and a hush came over the crowd. The only sound was me playing that song for her as she walked down the aisle. At the end of the ceremony, with tears in her eyes, she hugged me and told me how proud she was of me.
Sitting here, I remember.
I took many school lunches to the auditorium and played on the grand piano in front of hundreds of stadium-style seats. The tech crew would sometimes be in there, and one time they put a spot light on me and turned the rest of the lights off. I imagined I was actually playing a concert for an assembly of people and it was phenomenal.
Even during the times I can’t play, due to a busy schedule or not being able to get to a piano, I still think about it. I listen to classical piano music far more often than anything else and play the songs I know on my lap. I try to figure out what I hear so that when the time comes I can go back to a song that I heard and try to piece it out. Questions like “Who’s your favorite artist?” get replies such as “Ludovico Einaudi,” which in all cases but one has resulted in a, “Who?” The one case where someone actually knew that he was an Italian composer was of course the Italian foreign exchange music student.
For now, resting my hands on the keys in front of me, the only thing I need to think about is what I am going to play. Improvisation usually to start, just to warm up the hands, nothing major and basically just bits and pieces of songs or chords which I’ve taken and made my own, something from “Daylight” by Matt and Kim or maybe “Canon in D” with the left hand while I improvise with the right. This is just the start to getting into the rhythm of things. Then I play how I feel, and this is when I am glad the room is sound proof.
As I hit deep resounding chords, the music starts roaring with the crashing of the keys. The sounds now are thunderous around me and as my right hand begins to play following my left, the music has become an extension of me. Playing at full volume is something else, and this piano is perfectly tuned for it. Putting all of my energy into keeping the music going fills me with emotion like not much else can do. The massive energy echoes around me in this soundproof room, a stark contrast to the silence one would hear walking past just feet away.
The playing gives me a voice with which I can share part of myself, a medium through which I can converse, a way to speak out when I have frustrations to work through, a way to convey happiness after something joyous happens. It’s always the piano I go to, and I always play with my heart and soul.