A Little Bit Western

The Sound of Music

Aug 12, 2014

Many people who have known me for the past decade are often surprised to learn that I studied piano for almost half of my life. It’s not really a secret, but it’s not something that would be exactly obvious if you know me in the context of being a mom of preschoolers, a cattle producer, or a rangeland agrologist. Nowadays, I exhibit many Left Brain tendencies like being analytical, orderly and decisive, which doesn’t exactly smack of someone who’s familiar with a light Debussy Arabesque or an expressive Chopin Etude. With my current responsibilities, the creative, free-spirited, and imaginative qualities of my Right Brain often fly under the radar.

As a youngster, I remember seeing a kid playing a violin on Sesame Street and I was hooked. “I can do that!” I thought, although it turned out that violin instructors were rather hard to come by south of Meyronne in the mid-eighties. More practically, my parents responded to my musical aspirations by enrolling me in what I referred to as “fiano” lessons and they bought a beautiful Baldwin piano when I was six years old. I began learning scales, grade repertoire, playing exams, competing in music festival, and studying the (far less enjoyable) theory, harmony and history that went along with the actual “fun stuff.” I learned from the most attentive and patient music teachers, as well as my peers, competitors and adjudicators.

Knowing how to play music is a handy skill to pack around with you. It even sneaks up on you every once in a while, making your ears prick when you hear a vaguely familiar refrain, or a subtle theme repeated, or a flat or sharp make the melody sound just the way it’s meant to be heard. I learned more than just piano, I learned about self-discipline, the importance of hard work, how to perform on stage in front of many sets of eyes, how to be a good sport, how to meet people and make friends, how to make mistakes, and (hopefully) the grace and humility that comes from making mistakes.

I outgrew my first piano and my parents invested in a grand piano, which today happily occupies a chunk of real estate in my living room. It’s a treat to hear friends and family sit down and play a song or two, especially my nieces and nephews. In the absence of guests playing the piano, there are the sticky little hands of my own children at the keyboard, tickling the ivories. Music, not to be confused with noise, is often made in our humble home.

My parents gave me the gift of music and I’m hoping I can do the same with my kids, as my oldest children start music lessons this fall in the same place that I did when I was a little girl. Given that my Other Half also took music lessons as a youngster and to this day is able to play the radio and little else, I’m sort of hoping our kids will fall at least somewhere along the skill continuum between he and I. Perhaps they’ll discover a lifelong love for music….or perhaps they will come away with knowledge of where middle C is and have had a little fun along the way.

In life, you need to exercise both sides of your brain. Ironically, exploring the right side of our brains helps to fuel the development of the left side of our brains. While I know I should make more time to play the piano, there is still music in my ears at all times: the whir of a perfectly humming baler; wind zipping through the wings of pelicans flying just metres above my head; the sound of cattle munching grass on an absolutely still night; three pre-schoolers erupting in a fit of giggles long after they were tucked in bed… There is music all around us, if we just take the time to hear it.

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