This I Believe: In The Piano

Feb 25, 2015

Jacob Pearson - Rochester High School
Credit Rachel Lattimore / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The frost tapped on my window as I sat at the antique desk in my room on that icy winter afternoon. Eternal mounds of snow pressed its hands up against our front door, and it concealed me from the exploration I longed for. 

I could hear the bitterness of the air outside whispering to me, teasing me of the arctic temperatures that loomed about. I was concealed inside on this day, and with nothing to keep myself busy, my mind was just as frozen as the world around me. My pencils and artwork lay untouched as my creative gears wouldn’t thaw. No music came from my headphones because the songs brought desire to do what the frigid season would not allow me to. I questioned, over and over, what I was to do, and the only ideas that I could summon were those of art. But what is art? Art is the drawings and paintings that already consumed hours of my time. Art is percussion, in which I spend every moment. What I then realized is that art is something that I only reach out to a small part of. Beyond my room was an art form that I had not touched. This art was a piano.

As I creeped into the unused spare room where the piano waited, I could see the blanket of dust that covered the once glistening black and white keys. I sat down on the wooden bench before me, and I blew the effects of time off of the piano’s surface. With the previous knowledge of the musical scales from playing the marimba and bell set still hidden in the back of my mind, I set my fingers upon the keys and began to play. Immediately, I was unsure of my actions. Was I playing the piano as I should play the piano? I have seen players transition to other instruments with ease, but as it became more apparent to me, a percussionist transitioning to the piano was much more complicated. With trial, error and a piece of music in front of me, I learned where to place my fingers. It was as uncertain as picking up a paintbrush for the first time; it was as inquisitive as attempting to do a double stroke roll on an inexperienced drum head, but I was determined.

With the tension of the snow pressing against the walls of that room, I practiced, and I did not stop. I taught my fingers to move the way my wrists learned to in painting and drumming. My previously unemployed pinky fingers acquired the ability to hit the keys just as fluidly as my pointer finger could. I was learning through the music as my muscles memorized this new art and with more and more time came improvement. At the point where I was able to perform the piece with half the normal tempo and half of the accuracy, I knew that I had started to teach myself to play the piano. I was still hesitant about my improvement, but I believed that playing the piano would become more natural with experience. And so it did. A few years later, I still play the piano, now with all of the needed tempo and seven-tenths of the accuracy. My art in playing the piano isn’t as polished as other musicians I have known, and I still have a lot to learn so that I can better myself. Whether my musical abilities with the piano improve or stay the same is up to me, but I believe that my refinement will come. I believe in the piano, and as learning comes easier with every note, I believe that I can do anything if I am determined.