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Thursday, June 20, 2013



At the age of seven, my folks decided I needed to learn to play an instrument.  We had a piano as my dad was learning to play…he taught himself cause he could just do things like that…so I decided to try piano.  I took lessons for several months and actually kind of like it, until I learned I was going to play in my first recital.

My first recital was going to be broadcast on the radio, 1580 AM or KFNO in Las Angeles.  I was to perform the “Teaching Little Fingers To Play” classic, “From a Wigwam.” (This tune would be totally politically incorrect today.)


“From a Wigwam” was the most difficult song in book one of TLFTP, it involved using both hands…at the same time! I panicked.  The thought of playing on the radio with maybe 18 people listening was too much.  I skipped two lessons which po’d my dad no end as he still had to pay.  I gave up the piano before the recital.

I never understood the recital thing, especially for young children.  For me it was too much and it caused me to quit piano before I found out if I would like playing or not.  I discovered later in life that I have no musical ability, but the recital thing still left a bad taste in my mouth.

Two weeks ago while visiting my North Carolina Crankettes I attended my first piano recital, some 60 years after I chickened out on my own recital.  Two Crankettes were slated to perform. 

The oldest Tommy, 10, played very well.  He stumbled a bit on the first piece, but he nailed the second.  Halley, 8, played beautifully; she did not miss a note, though she may have played as if the building was on fire.  She will learn to slow down.

The highlight of the evening came when the last student took the chair. 

The oldest Crank, my little girl, the mother of three of my grandchildren has been taking lessons.  Mary Beth played piano as a child.  She did not have lessons, we could not afford them.  Her piano was an old un-tunable hand-me-down.  At the age of six Mary Beth was playing by ear, and not just plink-plink plunk-plunk play by ear, she played with all ten fingers, chords and all.  Mary Beth would listen to a piece from a movie and then go replicate it on the piano.  When she first mastered “The Theme from Ice Castles” I was shocked.  It sounded just like it came from the television.

We did get MB lessons when she was older, but the teacher turned out to be a nut job.  She was paranoid and suffered severe anxiety attacks.  She was a good teacher, but she suddenly was taken away babbling incoherently…very sad.  That was the end of lessons, until just two years ago when Mary Beth decided she would learn to read music and play properly.

This recital was her second.  I was as nervous for her as I was when I chickened out on my own recital.  She played strictly classical…Debussy and someone else.

She was magnificent, oh she may have missed a note or two, but she soldiered on, no one noticed, and she played beautifully.  She played with touch and with feeling and I enjoyed every note as did the rest of the audience of parents and their children.

It took 60 years, but I made it through my first piano recital. 

It was worth the wait!  


  1. That's awesome...I mean MB, not your recital crash and burn. It just baffles me how anyone can play by ear.

    My kids all had piano and various other instrument lessons. They did well and actually had talent (from their mother). But I think her pushing them too hard burned them out. Now all they play is the radio.


  2. aw that's very cool. I swear you always get me to think of stuff I ... well?

    My Dad was a minister. I played for church services and weddings and funerals and revivals from the time I was hmmm 8th grade? how ever old I was back then... let's see this is 2013... I graduated HS in 1961 at 18... so 8th grade is five years ... 13! wow... was I ever really 13.

    I was not good. I also sang. I was not good. I had piano recitals and voice recitals. I was not good. My brother could hardly wait to tell me... I was not good.

    BUT being the PK and Dad's churches were seemingly always needing a pianist … I got the job. I was in church every time the doors were open. His churches were medium sized and the typical white clapboard Methodist steepled country churches.

    So... in keeping with your last post or two ... that is one reason I swore up and down... to never hit another church door or play the piano as long as I lived ... I said that at 18. Then the ensuing years... I

    well, hells bells I don't know why I'm writing all this out on your comment thingy... I'll do a post maybe ... or not

    have a great day, Cranky! I bet you are a wonderful g'pa.. ;)

  3. this made my heart swell - like the grinch who stole christmas. :)

  4. I would need to work very hard to reach the level of having no musical ability at all. But I do love listening to music, and there have been many times in my life when I would have gladly exchanged my artistic ability to be able to play an instrument.

  5. Good for Mary Beth. Made your heart properly swell. Good for her.

  6. What a sweet, charming piece.

    I fervently wish I could play some musical instrument but I would have not only chickened out but fainted dead away at the mere thought of having to face a recital.
    I was pretty good on the Kazoo though. Sadly there was no future for me at that.

  7. I don't know about the grandchildren, but your daughter was playing because she WANTED to, and that makes a big difference. How wonderful that she stuck with it. You must be very proud.

  8. Sounds like that piano-playing talent skipped a generation, right over you to your daughter.

    My oldest son took piano lessons from the age of 4 to 8. My mom insisted, and paid for him to go once a week. He was decent, but had no spark. At 8, he decided he was done. He still sits down and plays occasionally, for fun.

  9. Okay, how funny that you post this right now. Two of my children have a piano recital THIS weekend. Avery is 12 and Alex is 13 and they've been playing for about 4 years now. But Alex is on a club soccer team, which is a huge commitment. And he has a tournament this weekend. So I told our piano teacher that if his game time conflicts with the recital time, he would have to miss the recital. She was all, "Well...why can't he just miss the game?" I think she was a bit peeved that we'd choose a soccer game over a 1 minute song at a piano recital.

    Here's the way I see it. I love music and all that, and I DO think it's very cool that my kids can play the piano and that they enjoy it. But they are taking piano lessons to learn to play the piano for their own enjoyment. They are not learning to play the piano to perform at recitals. Soccer, on the other hand...well, Alex goes to practices to get better so that WHEN THEY PLAY IN GAMES they can WIN against the other team. So it's like the reverse of piano. In soccer, he practices in order to perform well against other teams...and in piano, he practices so that he can play better for himself. So yeah, we choose a soccer tournament over a piano recital. I guess piano teachers don't like that, but whatever! I'm just happy that my very sports-minded and athletic teenage son enjoys playing the piano! I'm not going to make him hate it by making him miss a team game to perform a 1 minute song in front of people he doesn't even know. What sense does that make?