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It is true as many have said that have gone before me…I am busier now in retirement than I ever have been. One of the new things that I took on was, weekly piano lessons.  I had taken as a youth for several years, but like many, who also did due diligence to music lessons would say,  practice was not enjoyable and the recitals…let’s just say, I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

This is my memory of lessons.  I was slotted for the first half hour when I got home from school. Sister 2 was second, Sister 3 was third.  We all had our turn, and my mom, a phenomenal piano player, insisted that we practice, no matter what was going on in the neighborhood or even what was going on in the plot of my current book.  She would always be singing in the kitchen making dinner.

She was such a happy mom…most of the time.

In the midst of me playing a wrong note…she would stop and yell out.  “Do that again.”  If I still hit it wrong she would cry out, “Can’t you hear it?  Again, try it again, Nancy!”  Sometimes I think, she would give up in exasperation and say, “Sister 2…you’re up, get ready, replace Nancy on the bench, quickly.”

Sister 2 was brilliant, always brilliant at most everything and would soothe my mother back into song.

So after two years and two recitals, I was done.  I begged to be done.  I begged for guitar.  I begged for a teacher that didn’t make me play up in front of five hundred people and prolific players.  My mom, of course said no to guitar, it wasn’t pure enough…and it definitely was hippy-like to have your children in guitar lessons in the sixties.  But finally she did say yes to giving up lessons.  I was better at swimming lessons anyway she might have noticed, and they were cheaper!

I did learn along the way, however, that music had the power to call up emotions that I couldn’t even explain back then. A chord combination or even specific notes strung together in a pattern would bring a tear of happiness at the sound.  And I also loved to sing.  Still to this day, I’m the one with my radio blasting, singing and driving, thinking my thoughts…the one that completely oblivious to those driving in cars next to me, oh, I hope you’re not judging me right now.

So in the long run, quitting became something that was a regret of sorts.  Back then I probably thought, I could wear down my mom and she would give in to the guitar.  I even saved green-stamps and purchased my guitar.  I don’t think it was a very good guitar and I tried teaching myself without any success, so that was also abandoned as well.

In retirement I had the opportunity to take piano again, no recital, no mom chiming in from the kitchen.  Only a husband who has been really supportive.  He could be chirping in, weighing in, but he lets me practice and practice and practice, only today I decide when and how long.  Sister 2 isn’t waiting in the wings either.  Dave, my husband, has played various instruments and the piano for most of his life.  He lets me come to him, when I am stuck and helps me figure things out.

I am also the beneficiary of a new way of teaching piano.  It is based on music theory, rhythm patterns and understanding major and minor keys.  The best part of this new method is playing the length of the keyboard and starting right away with both hands.  It is more whole to part instead of part to whole.  Is this starting to sound familiar?  My teacher always plays what I am learning, so I know what it supposed to sound like.  And she is also offers encouragement and asks about my struggle.

And again, just like becoming a good reader or writer it involves something excruciatingly important…and you know the next word…PRACTICE.  I didn’t even know that word could be so joyous.  Do any of us remember what it was like when we were learning to read, if it was a struggle, maybe.  But great things come in the struggle.  I didn’t know that back then, but I have learned it through the years,

In the struggle, the joy comes peeping through.

If you are in a struggle now, you will see light if you keep on pressing forward, look up and eventually find the right note.  I pray this prayer for you, in your New Year. And I will pray that same prayer for those in our classrooms, who for one reason or another, want to give up.

If there is no struggle there is no progress.

Frederick Douglass



7 thoughts on “practice…struggle…practice…

  1. Sometimes I think if we take away the struggle, all will be happier. This is just not true. We are most proud of accomplishments when we had to work for them. Great reminder Nanc! Have a super new year!


  2. amandavillagomez

    I loved your post. I am glad that you are back in piano lessons and able to experience this again from a new light. I also like the spin on how you were thinking of practice. It made me think back to my OLW a few years ago – gratitude. At the time I was writing my dissertation, and I wanted to focus on being grateful for the whole process, not just the final product. It helped me to appreciate the different steps along the way – the easy and the challenging.


  3. Love your post. As others have said, without struggle there would be no accomplishment. I believe that the joy comes from being able to say “Look what I overcame and was able to accomplish.” Happy New Year.


  4. Lots of things to think about here. Practice isn’t a good word from a kid perspective, probably because of the struggle and pain involved! No one likes struggle or pain. Seems like you’ve found the joy in practice with a good teacher, some encouragement (from your husband), little pressure (no recitals), no comparisons, and the end product– success the biggest joy. Happy New Year to you!


  5. “In the struggle, the joy comes peeping through.”
    Love this line! Good for you that you have rediscovered the piano – music is such a healing and joyous thing to have in one’s life!


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