I’ve been playing music for as long as I can remember. My childhood was more so a series of staffs, black notes and complex finger patterns than it was words or steps. I learned music as a third language (after English and Tamil), and it brought me a type of simultaneous joy and frustration that nothing else in the world brings me. It’s the fire that lights my every move.
I was 5 years old was when my parents drove me to my first piano lesson. I’d be lying if I said I remembered it like it was yesterday because I don’t recall it at all. I prefer it that way; it wasn’t some huge moment in my life. Instead, it was just what was meant to happen, simple as that. I’ve had 3 piano teachers in my life, each one growing in difficulty and sternness as I, too, grew. Although I don’t remember these first few piano lessons, I will never forget that rush when I’d struggle through a piece and make it through without a single false note. That rush started in my belly and glowed all the way up my esophagus. It was a pride like none other.
After those many years of youth piano books, I finally got into the good stuff. Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and, my favorite of all, Tchaikovsky. I wasn’t anywhere near being a perfect pianist. Every piece I learned was tough, and I suffered through misplaced fingers, misread notes and misunderstood key signatures. I was so beyond frustrated. All I wanted was to be a piano maestro, taking one look at a page and playing it as fluently as I can speak a passage of the English language. All my friends were playing pop music in their lessons, and I craved the ease of Adele’s chords under my fingertips. I lost sight of the treasure that was classical piano.
What had always discouraged me from being the best pianist I could be was the fact that I knew deep down I didn’t need to be, even if I wanted to. I wasn’t planning on majoring or minoring in any music-related fields. Music was my past and present, but it was sadly not my future. So the hours when I should’ve been practicing my concertos and sonatas, I was instead grabbing iced coffee with my best friends, scribbling out my Calculus homework or researching about and applying to colleges. I had lost my innate passion for music and, rather, treated it like an annoying chore. I instead focused my energies on playing simple chords to my favorite radio songs and singing along to them with my friends. I spent most of my high school career partaking in open mic nights and talent shows, always accompanying myself and my friends on those trusty keys.
It had been a long time since I had played my classical pieces, and I mean really play them. I quit piano lessons by the end of my senior year of high school, preparing for the inevitable move to Boston. My beautiful, rich piano books began collecting dust in the corner of my living room at home, aching for their pages to be turned and set up against the piano stand. But I was a Marketing Communications major, now, and I had no business playing piano.
It was a few weeks ago when I came home for a weekend and went over to my living room (a.k.a. The music room). I play piano often when I come home, but typically Ingrid Michaelson or Ed Sheeran sheet music that I pull up on my laptop. This time, however, I picked up my favorite piano book, Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons. It’s a collection of twelve pieces for every month of the year. I set open the book to January: At The Fireside and began stumbling through the notes. That rush from my belly to my esophagus returned instantaneously. I felt alive.
The point is that music should never have a life sentence. Music lessons are not for children and young adults, until they frolic away to college. Music is not just for the Music majors. There is something so soothing and electrifying about really playing music and forcing yourself through those tricky pieces. I feel the best musician when my eyes glaze over staring at the measures of black notes, sharps, and flats and when I have to keep restarting a measure. It’s when I am the most determined, confident, and focused. It has shaped every aspect of my life, making me a more attuned person. Even though I am no professional maestro, I know I am still a pianist.