Written by Claire Benedict, May 2019
I quit piano at age nine. After asking my mom to cancel lessons in a maelstrom of distress, I struck it off my weekly calendar with the aggressive scribble of pen. No more arguments and lectures with my parents about practicing. No more scales. No more arpeggios. No more metronome. I was free. However, I soon began to miss it. I missed the feel of the keys underneath my fingers, the weight of them, the decay of each note just milliseconds after it is hit, and the perfection of an authentic cadence. So, my parents enrolled me in Sherry VanOveren's studio and I continued my study. I soon grew to like playing the piano, having fun with Ms. Sherry's interactive games and exciting musical selections. Though my parents still prodded me to practice, I became much more accepting of it. I thought of it as a pleasant chore, as just another part of my education.
However, I did not think it would be forever a part of my life until years later, at age 14. In my basement one night, with the space heater on full blast, I clumsily clunk through the first page of Mozart's Fantasia in D minor. I am awestruck by its beauty and complexity and instantly connect with it. I experience this feeling again when I perform it at my recital. Up to that moment, that piece, that performance, I did not feel like a musician. When playing music, there is a subtle, yet vast difference between reading notes on a piece of paper, hitting appropriate keys, and observing various crescendos and sforzandos versus using your whole body, mind and soul. Instead of using the piano as a separate entity to play music on, true musicians create music themselves and use the piano to convey it. They can transform two-dimensional black lines on white paper into perfect and multifaceted concepts of beauty and color and sound and feeling. When I performed Mozart's Fantasia in D minor, I finally felt like I was the one making the music, not the piano. I had taken a piece created centuries ago, played by thousands and thousands of people, and made it uniquely mine.
Now, playing and practicing the piano is like breathing—natural, effortless, and essential. When I am overwhelmed with my studies, I simply walk across to the Schimmel and float into a peaceful world of melody and dissonance. In college, I believe that continuing piano will be indispensable for my studies and my mental wellbeing. It is a way to use and challenge my brain in different ways—outside the scope of math or english—and allow me to express emotions that cannot be communicated through words or actions Through constant study, I can expand my repertoire and improve my technicality and musicality. When I pay at dinner parties and at my church, many people comment on how they "wish they had kept playing". I do not want to make the same mistake. In college, I can also connect with professors and fellow musicians. Through years at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, a two week intensive in northern Michigan, I have found that there is a natural affinity among musicians, something that I want to develop in college as well. Finally, I want to continue music to share it with others. There is nothing in the world like my friends' sense of wonder when I perform a flamboyant and booming Beethoven or Grieg or my grandfather's tears when I play him the first refrain of a Chopin Nocturne. I want to continue piano in college because ever since performing Mozart's Fantasia, I have become utterly and eternally tied to the piano. I have become a musician.
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