27 June 2011

A Musical Autobiography

Note: I'm at the University of Pittsburgh for the summer, studying at a summer institute called "Voices Across Time: American History through Music." I'm writing this as a draft of my first project, to provide a "musical autobiography" of myself, using an experience I had through music.

I have always been steeped in music. I can't remember a time in my life where music wasn't important to me. My father is an accomplished pianist and organist who today earns his living playing for churches. My mother grew up playing the violin and planned--through the end of her freshman year of college--to be a professional musician. By the time I came into my parents' lives, you could say that music was part of my destiny.

I began taking piano lessons in first grade, and I continued--summer and school year--all through elementary school. I was not an exceptional pianist, but by the time I finished eighth grade, I could play well. It was the summer after eighth grade, that I faced an important decision about my future in music.

I was bored. I practiced my exercises and the classical pieces assigned to me, but I didn't have a love for the piano. I was thinking very seriously about quitting. I was about to start high school. I felt like moving on.

I remember sitting at the piano in my living room, muttering. (I have since learned that muttering is about as natural to 14-year-olds as breathing, but it seemed really important to me at the time.) I put away my Beethoven book and pulled out a book of songs from the movie, "Snow White." It didn't take me long to learn the songs. As I was playing, "Some Day My Prince will Come," something happened.

I had a vision.

In my vision, I was playing the piano. There was a girl there, sitting on the bench next to me as I played. And she liked what I was playing!

It was a powerful vision, I must say. The girl, she sidled closer to me, so that our arms touched--from shoulder to elbow, no less. I can't remember what other fantasies might have moved my 14-year-old mind, but it probably also involved squinching my lips together at the end of the song and seeing hers--squinched up too--waiting to meet mine.

I should add that at this time in my life, there was nothing more confusing to me than teenaged girls. In reality, had one sat next to me, I probably would have been unable to play anything--not even "Chopsticks." But that shouldn't take away from the vision. I realized something about my music. I could benefit from this, I thought, this might be just the thing that will attract a girl!