The last time I played music, really played music, was the fall of 2006. Upon graduating from high school and heading to college, I decided that I wanted to continue playing the clarinet in the NIU Marching Band. A week before school started, I moved into the dorms and band camp began. I immediately made friends, mostly with other incoming freshmen who were in the exact same boat as me. I also very quickly realized the amount of work and time that went into being a member of the marching band. Which was a lot of both.
I lasted about a month before I turned in my uniform. Now... I'm not one to just up and quit things. Leaving the marching band was very difficult for me to do. There were a number of factors that went into my decision, though. I was a freshman, starting out at a new school in a new town, doing it on my own. Trying to figure out the new chapter I had entered into. Learning how to balance homework and social activities and adjusting to a new normal was much more difficult with the addition of marching band. As I said before, it was a large time investment, and I really didn't want the school work to suffer. I, the mistress of multitasking, found it incredibly difficult to do it all.
Additionally, being in the marching band required that I be present for band activities, football games and parades and whatnot, almost every single weekend. And having a boyfriend who lived almost two hours away meant that weekends were really the only opportunity we had to spend time together. This last part was, and is, admittedly the most selfish part of my decision, but it was important to me then (and even now I'm glad for it). Leaving the marching band had nothing to do with a lack of passion or love for music. I loved playing with that band, and I seriously enjoyed the events that I did participate in--the Labor Day road trip to The Ohio State University is one of my fondest college memories. I learned a lot about music theory and playing, and I am grateful for that time, however short it was. It was just too hard for me to do everything, and unfortunately, marching band was sacrificed.
So. Years passed and I all but stopped playing music. The clarinet went back to my parents' house, and my brother took up the guitar. The latter turned out to be for the best, as he is a fantastic guitar player, self-taught and everything! He even played at our wedding, which is something I will always treasure and appreciate. I continued to listen to music all the time, but... I ceased playing. I had other outlets to express myself creatively, primarily through writing and doing a little bit of art here and there, but there was always something missing.
Eventually, I realized it was music. I missed making music. It had been so long since I'd played the clarinet, the guitar, and even longer since I last played the piano, but I wanted it again. I started listening to classical piano pieces and dreaming of creating those beautiful melodies with my own two hands. I began looking at keyboards online, pricing out my dream instrument and trying to figure out how I could make it happen. I expressed the desire to play music to my husband on a regular basis; being a photographer, he is well aware of the need for a creative outlet. He was supportive of this idea, of my longing to start playing again.
For Christmas, the only thing I asked for was a keyboard. I certainly didn't expect I would receive it, as I felt like I was asking for a lot, and I continued to daydream about making that purchase. On a cold December afternoon, though, the doorbell rang while I was in the shower and when I peeked out of my front door, there it was: an early gift in the form of two large boxes--one of which had an image of a keyboard on the front! And not just any keyboard, but a Yamaha Digital Piano, an instrument much nicer and much more beautiful than I had envisioned purchasing. It was incredible, and I got to work setting it up almost immediately. The next thing I did was head to the music store to pick up a few music books: one of Hanon piano exercises and another called The Best of Radiohead.
The first time I sat down at the piano, I felt like a little girl again, sitting next to J. as she introduced me to the piano and we went over scales and music theory for the first time. And just as I anticipated, it was a bit rocky at first; I had all but forgotten how to read the bass clef and getting both of my hands to work in rhythm and harmony at the same time, doing two different things at once, was much more difficult than I remembered. But I kept at it, and every time I sat down, it got a little bit easier. I never really forgot how to play... I just tucked that knowledge away for a while until I needed it again. Just like riding a bike--you always remember how, even if it's been years.
Each time I improved just a little bit, and now, a few months later, I am still continuing to get better. I can read the bass clef no problem now, and pairing it with the treble clef isn't a challenge for me anymore. I am slowly remembering all of the music theory related skills I gained during my younger years. I found all of my old piano music at my parents' house, and I love playing through all of it, some of it less challenging than others, but all of it reminiscent and fun.
I have fallen in love with playing the piano again, and it wasn't until I started up again that I realized how much I missed it. I hope I can keep playing for a long time, keep improving. One day, I would love to be able to teach my future children how to play, to instill in them an adoration and passion for music and creativity not unlike the one that J. showed me all those years ago. It is a gift, one that I am very, very lucky to possess.