It was more of a toy than anything else, with terrible sound quality and powered by two AA batteries. Yet it had enough power to generate a painful experience early in my life.
I loved that little piano.
I carried it around because it was so small and portable. My preferred spot to sit and play was in the little tree-house in my backyard.
When I would sit in my tree-house and play, there was nothing but music. There was no self-consciousness. There was no ego. It was just music, and I was the conduit that let it flow.
I learned to translate the beautiful music in my mind into the finger movements that could cause a shadow of what I imagined to emerge in the wavering electronic sounds from my little piano.
My mother eventually noticed my music. My father was a penny pincher, but my mother insisted that piano lessons would be worth the expense.
I didn’t take well to piano lessons. It just wasn’t the same as letting the music flow through me. Piano lessons were too formal and structured for my liking.
Nonetheless, I cooperated with my mother’s plan. I learned the basics and one day in high school found myself invited to play at a recital for piano students at a nearby college.
I’ve never been comfortable with performance situations. I clam up. My hands seem like they belong to someone else, and I focus on my fear of failing.
The music dies. It stops frolicking in my mind and retreats to hide from the fearful focus of my anxious thoughts.
That’s what happened as I sat at the grand piano on stage, hundreds of music majors and professors of music gathered to hear their star pupils.
I felt fantastically inadequate. I did not belong. I suddenly felt angry at my mother for thrusting me into this uncomfortable situation.
Despite all this, my fingers began to play. The melody emerged as I focused on the technical qualities my piano teacher had asked me to display with this particular piece of music.
Then I froze.