I saw an old piano on the street curb the other day and I stopped to say hello.
Its warped keys lolled upwards and a broken panel exposed all of its hammers and strings. I averted my eyes from such indignity and focused instead on its proud wooden frame.
“I’ll bet you could tell some great stories,” I said and I imagined a rich life full of pudgy toddler fingers plunking out “C-D-E Has a tree. Full of Apples as can be,” nervous recitals, and rowdy dinner parties with belting guests gathered around.
The street curb seemed a sad end for such a glorious instrument and I got to wondering about the fate of pianos in our frenetic world.
Are people still playing them? Are children still learning to read music by sticking their two big thumbs on middle C? Do piano teachers still lick foil stars and place them on sheet music when their students finally master the piece and can move on?
I hope so.
I love the sound a well-tuned piano makes and I appreciate the effort it takes to play them. I like that some musicians have to break down music by measures, mastering each small segment until they can play the whole piece with flourish, and that other gifted sight readers can sit down and whip through entire scores without practicing a note.
I think pianos are the alpha instrument from which all other music flows. It’s ironic, really, how much I love pianos because, when I was in fourth grade, Sister Winifred kicked me out of the St. Therese piano program because I refused to practice.
I kept playing, though, and eventually found a piano teacher that offered me cool sheet music and better incentive to learn to play it.
Have you ever walked down a street on a summer evening and heard piano music wafting out an open window? Did you slow your pace a bit and listen?
Did you ever sit in a comfortable chair and, for the simple joy of hearing it, listen to your children practicing piano?
Did you ever gather with your friends around a piano bar and call out songs for the musician to play?
Did you ever sing “Piano Man”?
If so, how ’bout one more round for my sad friend on the street curb?
We need a little less trash in this old world, and a lot more music.