Learning to play piano presents new brand of happiness

Learning to play piano presents new brand of happiness
When my friends, family and even complete strangers learn that I am taking piano lessons, their responses are mixed.

Well, it's never too late, one guy belted with a belittling laugh.

Really? a co-worker remarked with a disbelieving giggle.


You are? another replied with a lilt of surprise.

One woman in her 20s recalled, I took piano lessons from fourth to eighth grade and then quit. I wish I hadn't quit.

When I shared the news with my little sister, she screeched my name with unmitigated longing, PAULA! I've always wanted to do that!

I trod to my lessons every week for one reason only: happiness. Since May, when I first laid my hands on the piano keys, I've embraced my new best friend and instantly encountered a new brand of happiness.

I have searched for what this can be compared to, but nothing quite compares. Learning to dive off the high board? Very, very close, but far less technical than piano playing. Mastering 360-degree twirls while ice skating? There are some parallels on the happiness scale to learning to play My First Waltz in middle C, but it is not apples to apples. Disciplining myself to follow recipes? Similar feeling of accomplishment minus the thrill factor.

When I sit down on the bench with those ivories before me, I enter another world, a place with a new set of rules and a different language. The blending of melodic and harmonic verses. The sudden changes introduced by C sharp and B flat. The difficulty I encounter searching for the beat as I work through eighth notes.

In this new place, my learning is awkward and my confidence sporadic as I navigate each measure.

Here with this new road map, there are many new signs, marks and directions to learn. The letter f is for forte, which means to play loudly. The letter p is for piano, which is to play softly. Letters mf stand for moderately loud; mp is moderately soft. Add the treble clef, bass clef and grand staff. What's more, there are rests and meter signatures to follow.

At any given time, I am working in at least three learn-to-play music books of varying levels of difficulty.

One piece I'm currently learning is Angels We Have Heard on High in middle D, a new position for my fingers. Plus, it has two melodies to be played simultaneously. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I do not.

When I do, that new brand of happiness flows through me. If you were sitting next to me or anywhere nearby when I hit the right notes at the right tempo and tone, you would sense it rise up in me.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her columns have won first-place national and state awards in The National Federation of Press Women competitions. Most recently, Damon's writing took second place statewide in the South Dakota Press Women 2007 Competition. For more information, e-mail pauladamon@iw.net.

� 2007 Paula Damon

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