As a kid, I took piano lessons. It was fulfilling. Even as a teenager, I didn’t begrudge the practice time. I even enjoyed scales.
I went off to college and there was no piano, although I could have found one if I had tried. But I was busy with school. I told myself I’d return to the piano someday.
In my 20s I was preoccupied with my career and my social life. I said I’d have time to play the piano later.
In my 30s I was busy with marriage, work and family. Someday, I said.
Sometime in my 40s I actually purchased a piano. My son took lessons, and I sometimes played tunes we all knew. But I didn’t resume lessons myself because I was really busy and there would be time later.
My son abandoned piano lessons and then he left for college. I played the upright piano in the living room sporadically, usually when the house was empty except for the cats. Someday, I said, I would get back to lessons. When I wasn’t so busy.
Two years ago, around this time of year, I thought about adding piano lessons to the resolution list. You must be kidding, my inner voice said. I have so much to do, I barely have time to sleep. I’ll take piano lessons later.
how’s that again?
But this time a competing inner voice answered back.
It said: When?
Yes, when? When is later, and why did I think that later would be any different from right now? There would always be only 24 hours in a day, and there would always be a full menu of obligations and diversions to fill those hours.
A friend had introduced me to a young woman, Kairy Koshoeva, a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music. She plays piano spectacularly and gives lessons. She said she could fit me in every other week.
I was pretty rusty in those first few lessons. It seemed I had lost the ability to count.
Koshoeva assured me my “musical memory” would kick in. I was dubious, but I persevered, freshening up my musical memory with old standbys like “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”
For practice, I had decided to follow the 15-minute plan. I would commit to 15 minutes a day, and see what happened. Surely, in the time that I spent “liking” things on Facebook or wandering around the house straightening up, I could find 15 minutes.
Actually, I almost always ended up practicing for longer than that. And the funny thing is, I really couldn’t tell you what I’ve set aside in order to play the piano for 45 minutes to an hour most days. I seem to get as much done as before.
There had always been time; I just hadn’t known it was there.
In early summer this year, my teacher announced a small recital for her students. I had a good 40 years on the other pianists. Some were too small to reach the pedals.
We sat in the front row, with an audience of family members. “Have you done a recital before?” I asked the girl beside me, who looked to be about 10. “Lots,” she said, exuding much more confidence than I was feeling.
Still, I managed a nocturne by Chopin and a rousing rondo by Mozart.
Soon after that, my college student came home for a visit, attached as usual to his laptop and headphones. I asked him what he was listening to and he surprised me by saying “Rachmaninoff.” I mentioned this to Koshoeva, who had grown up in Kyrgyzstan and studied in Moscow. Sergei Rachmaninoff is one of her favorite composers.
“You should learn Rachmaninoff to play for your son,” she said.
We looked at a composition. It was ridiculously difficult.
“Well, I can’t play that,” I said.
“Sure you can,” Koshoeva said. “You just learn the chords one finger at a time.”
A couple of weeks ago, we had another recital. I played Prelude in C-sharp minor, by Rachmaninoff.
A dream realized
Some of the chords did not come out quite the way the master had composed them. But I got to play Rachmaninoff on a Steinway piano, and that is a thrill.
I relate all of this in case some of you have been putting off something you really want to do, thinking you don’t have time or ability. You probably have more than you know.
Just start with the 15-minute plan. Have confidence in your memory, or your ability to learn something new. And if something looks too daunting, take it one finger at a time.
Barbara Shelly is a columnist for the Kansas City Star.