Tag Archives: children

My First Gig

The last few years I have been doing more teaching and fewer gigs. I still perform one to two days a week, but as I grow older I prefer a less hectic life, so I now do more teaching than performing. I have years of stories to tell, but little time to write it and lately it’s been on my mind because I’m finding that some of these memories from the past are getting hazy and I don’t want to forget them. I want to share them. Here.

So let me start off with a story from many years ago, from when I was a child taking piano lessons.

I was probably about 11 years old when one day after church, Maxine, my Sunday school teacher from when I was younger approached me about playing the piano for the early elementary Sunday school kids. At that time I was a very shy, self-conscience girl and scared of my own shadow. I told her I didn’t think I could do it. She sensed my nervousness and told me that if I made a mistake the young kids wouldn’t care. Of course my mother said right in front of her, “Shannon, you can do this!” and encouraged me to take the job. But I told Maxine that I had to think about it and that I would tell her the following Sunday.

So that entire week I’m going back and forth with the idea, wondering if I could do it. She had told me that the music was all songs that I had sung when I was in her elementary class. But I knew that singing them was NOT the same as playing them. All week my mom was encouraging me, (I would not be where I am today without her encouragement) and finally decided I would do it.

So the following Sunday I told Maxine I would be her piano player. She was delighted. So Maxine handed me the music that she wanted me to learn. I looked at it and was horrified! It looked so hard! I’m panicking wondering how I’m going to pull this off. I didn’t want to disappoint, so I took the music from her and prayed. My mother’s words were ringing in my head, “We need to always give God our best”. I thought, “How can I give God my best when it’s so hard!?”

That following week along with my school work, my normal piano practice and my household chores, I practiced and prayed, working diligently on the music. Thankfully she only gave me only a few of the songs to learn. The rest would come later. So I worked on my right hand alone. I worked on my left hand alone. Then I put my two hands together and worked and practiced and before I knew it Sunday arrived. I was not confident. I was scared and nervous but I knew that God would be with me. Maxine gathered the children in a big circle around the old upright piano in the Sunday school room and I played Jesus Loves Me while the children sang. Did I mess up? Yup! Did anyone care? Just me. Just as Maxine said, the kids didn’t care!

I continued playing for the early elementary kids for a long time and learned more songs as the time passed. Of course the music that Maxine gave me was not difficult, but at that time in my piano learning journey, it was hard. I look back at it now and consider it my first gig. Little did I know that there would be many more gigs in my future.

Wow, that experience shaped my entire life. I wanted to run when Maxine asked me to play. I had a real fear of playing in front of others. But with my mother’s encouragement, I faced my fear as a child so many years ago and every time I played in front of anyone other than my parents, it continued to get easier and easier. From then on, I’ve pretty much been a church piano player and I still am to this day. Do I still get nervous? I still sometimes do, but just a little bit.

Thank you mom. XOXO

Sight reading

Distractions: Hearing Aids, Cell Phones, Children and Chocolate

I was at the piano one day recently, playing for shoppers, taking requests, stopping to visit with folks between songs. A couple of the regulars stopped by to listen when it happened again.

Ring, Ring, RING! You guessed it; I’m in the middle of a song when somebody’s cell phone rings. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that people have their cell phones on and ready to take a call while hanging around the piano. It’s not like I’m performing a concert, just leisurely playing people’s requests. However, if someone does have a call, it would be nice if they would leave the area while they take the call.  (There are some that stay near the piano and try to talk over the music, now that is distracting!)

So, anyway, I’m in the middle of playing a song when a man’s cell phone begins to ring. It rings four times and he’s not answering it. (It is not the first time this has happened, it actually happens all the time!) He doesn’t hear his phone ringing, but I do! So I turn to him on the fourth ring, as my hands continuing to play and tell him kindly that his phone is ringing. He says, “What? Really? You can hear that? I didn’t hear it!” Looking embarrassed, he walks away while he takes his call.

This man doesn’t hear his phone ring because he tells me that he turns down his hearing aid while listening to me play. I have had others tell me they do the same because if their volume is too high, it distorts the music. Actually there are several regulars that I have to let them know when their phone is ringing! I tell them they should set it to vibrate!

I began writing this new post a few weeks ago, but have been too busy to finish and post it. Since I started this new post, cell phones ringing at the piano has now become an epidemic. It has been happening a lot lately and now, just yesterday, a new visitor stopped by the piano and made a request. HIS cell phone began ringing a VERY loud ring while I was playing his request. He didn’t hear it and so I turned to him as I played and told him that his phone was ringing. He took it out of his pocket and said, “Wow, you must have good hearing!”  Hmmm……..I guess I do have great hearing!


And speaking of distractions, the other day, a couple of brothers about 3 and 4 years old came running up to the piano, with sticky chocolate fingers and started banging on the bass clef keys, while I’m in the middle of playing a song. I could not see any parent around at first. I abruptly stopped my song when I looked down and saw the chocolate all over the keys. (At first I wasn’t sure it was chocolate, if you know what I mean!)  I asked the boys, “Where are your parents?”  They answered by banging louder on the keys. I stood up and looked around and saw their mother walking slowly toward the piano.  She said in a nonchalant tone, “Now boys, you shouldn’t be doing that,” as she browsed a rack of clothing. By then the boys had moved all over the keyboard with their sticky, chocolaty fingers.

One of my most favorite parts of playing the piano for the public is when children come by. I love seeing their little faces light up when I play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or the Itsy Bitsy Spider. Their curiosity and interest of watching my fingers as they hear the music is priceless, especially if it is the very first time they heard and saw a piano. But these boys were not interested in listening to me, only making their OWN music!

The people that were sitting listening to my music were rather surprised that the mother was so lax with her children and actually, so was I! I wondered if this mother would stop her children if they tried climbing on the top of the piano. Before they had a chance, she abruptly said “Let’s Go!”  And off they went. So I got a cloth and began cleaning the keys.


While I was cleaning the keys I looked up and noticed the sweetest little face watching me. She was about 5 or 6 years old. When I smiled at her and she timidly approached me and asked what I was doing.  I told her that I was cleaning chocolate off of the piano keys. She asked me if I would play a song for her when I finished cleaning. I of course told her I would. When I asked her what she would like me to play, she said “Jesus Loves Me. “

As I played, she sang with a pure, sweet voice:

Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong.

Yes Jesus loves me
Oh, yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me for the Bible tells me so.

She knew all the words and sang it beautifully! When she finished, I clapped for her and asked if she knew the second verse. She said she did not. So I sang it to her:

I love Jesus, does he know?
Have I ever told Him so?
Jesus loves to hear me say
That I love him every day.

Yes, I love Jesus
Yes, I love Jesus
Yes, I love Jesus
In prayer I’ll tell him so!

And with that, off she ran to her mother who by now was standing close by, watching us with a smile on her face. I told her what a darling her daughter was and she had to agree!


I sum this all up by saying,
“Time spent at the piano is always time well spent!”
Yes there are distractions, just as there are in life.
Some notes are sour, some are sweet, but they both make a melody.
Some people are sour, some are sweet, but they both make up life!