To my rather naïve surprise, however, instead of setting the score for Für Elise on the piano stand before me, my piano teacher handed me a set of Beginner’s Books.I was to read through the Book of Theory, learn to read the basic notes of the treble and bass clefs, and practice, my palm arched as though an imaginary apple were cupped between my fingers, playing one note at a time.I poured my happiness and my angst into the keys, loving every minute of it.
I have acquired a lifestyle of discipline and internalized the drive for self-improvement.
I have gained an appreciation for the complexities and the subtleties of interpretation.
Instead of clapping, however, my teacher gave me a serious look and took both my hands in hers.
“Music,” she said sincerely, “is not just technique. It comes from the heart.” That was how I discovered passion.
Sharp, excruciating pain shot down my legs as he summoned us repeatedly to the line to run wind sprints.
I collapsed as I turned the corner on the final sprint.Practice was no longer a chore; it was a privilege and a delight.In high school, I began playing the piano for church services.The basic melody and musical key, however, remained the same, even as the embellishments changed.The foundation of good improvisation and songwriting is simple: understanding the musical key in which a song is played—knowing the scale, the chords, the harmonies, and how well (or unwell) they work together—is essential.I rarely played a song the same way twice; the beauty of improvisation, of songwriting, is that it is as much “feeling” as it is logic and theory.Different occasions and different moods yielded different results: sometimes, “Listen Quietly” was clean and beautiful in its simplicity; other times, it became elaborate and nearly classical in its passages.The music director gave me a binder full of 1-2-3 sheet music, in which melodies are written as numbers instead of as notes on a music staff.To make things a bit more interesting for myself—and for the congregation—I took to experimenting, pairing the written melodies with chords and harmonies of my own creation.Beethoven, Mozart, Mendelssohn: the arcs and passages of intricate notes are lines of genius printed on paper, but ultimately, it is the musician who coaxes them to life.They are open to artistic and emotional interpretation, and even eight simple bars can inspire well over a dozen different variations.