My sport was piano. I played tennis in high school, and I love to skate (roller & ice), ski (water & snow), ride bikes and swim. But when I was growing up, my sport was piano.
It doesn’t sound like much of a “sport”, except for being a workout for your fingers. But it requires the same discipline. When I was five, I remember telling my parents I wanted to be able to play like the pianist at our church, who played beautifully. They let me start taking lessons, with the understanding that I had to practice. So I practiced at home on the same piano my mom had learned on starting in 6th grade (and I still have it!).
I’ve had many wonderful piano teachers over the years (Mrs.: Upchurch, Hannah, Gimmel, Peaks, Kuehnert, plus a “Mr.” who shall remain nameless but I wasn’t too fond of…and a few more whose names have escaped me). I never went without lessons until college and even then had a couple of teachers on a limited basis. All of my teachers had their own great style and taught me something different. I’m so thankful to my parents for making me stick with it during the rare times I wanted to quit.
A new day for practicing. Starting off with “How Great Thou Art”.
By the time I got to high school, I was practicing at least two hours each day. My parents & Granny (the ones subjected to it most) always claimed they loved hearing me practice, even with mistakes (and there were many). I loved practicing; it wasn’t a chore for me but it had to be done just like in a traditional sport if I wanted to improve.
And you can’t just plop down at the piano and play the song over and over. You’ve got to warm up with scales, finger exercises, or chords. Then you need to practice hands separately. On top of that is using a metronome to master the timing (my mom and I joke to this day about one of my teachers who would ask me, without fail, every week if I had a metronome). At last, you can begin to put the song together in small chunks until you can string the entire piece together with few mistakes. Finally, committing it to memory is paramount.
There were recitals and competitions…lots of competitions at lots of different levels, requiring exacting notes. One little slip and you could lose many points.
The beautiful piano on the stage at King College Chapel. I had lessons in the basement and many recitals on this stage. My daughter Janie has recently had voice recitals here too!
On the other side of the coin, I accompanied the chorus when I was in high school, which was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had! Under the direction of the amazing Virginia Duff, we traveled all over to perform. My favorites were the Broadway musical shows she would put together. Such great memories with her, the singers and the music.
My favorite hymnal–it’s falling apart! You can find one here.
Over the years I’ve practiced of course, but I’ve let a lot slip, much to my dismay. If I had the time I could easily sit and play for hours, because it’s entertaining and relaxing for me. My kids don’t see it that way…they flee to the upstairs where they can’t hear (too loud, music is too old, etc. etc.).
I’ve always said playing the piano is like riding a bike because there is so much muscle memory associated with it. I used to be able to just sit down and rattle off my old tunes. Now, not so much. So I’m embarking on practicing my oldies but goodies.
The inside cover of my hymnal-from my childhood church.
I love playing hymns so that’s a good place to start. Much like I was when I was 5, I hope I can see an improvement in the weeks to come and move on to some bigger pieces. Here’s hoping practice makes perfect!
Get back to an old hobby you used to love. You’ll probably be able to pick back up right where you left off!