Tag Archives: church

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


Red Nail Polish on White Piano Keys

Once when I was at the church piano practicing a song with a few friends, I got a little crazy and began doing glissandos up and down the piano keys to get a laugh. Of course this would not be appropriate in a church setting, but since it was just ‘us girls’ I thought I could get away with it.

Well, I’m sure you’ve heard “your sins will find you out” and they sure did because to my horror, I looked down and saw it. Red fingernail polish marks all over the formerly white keys on that beautiful grand piano! (Not that wearing red nail polish or doing glissandos in church is a sin, just a figure of speech) Oh no! All of us girls tried everything we could think of to remove the marks. We searched the church cleaning closet and tried everything. The marks wouldn’t budge. Someone said, “Let’s try nail polish remover!”  I said “NO! Back in the old days, piano keys were made from actual ivory, but now days they make them from some sort of plastic.” I just knew that polish remover would probably destroy the finish. Well, nothing we tried that day would work, so we had to leave the keys like that.

The following Sunday, of course the pastor asked me what had happened with the piano keys. I’m sure he thought some rotten kids did it, but I had to ‘fess’ up and tell him that it was me who caused it. He smirked and I told him that I wouldn’t rest until I found a remedy.

I tried everything. This was back in the day before the internet, so I couldn’t just Google it. I had a book entitled “Mary Ellen’s Helpful Household Hints”. That book had a solution to every cleaning issue, but nothing for my piano key problem.

Time passed and my best friend’s son Jeff, who must have been around eight years old at the time, came running up to me one Sunday after church, all excited saying, “Shannon, Shannon! Hey, guess what?! I fixed the piano keys!” (Of course by now, the entire congregation had heard all about the red polish on the piano keys.) I hurried to the piano and sure enough, the red marks were gone!  When I asked him what concoction he used to get those stubborn marks off with, he simply said, “I erased them.” When I asked him to show me, he took a pencil with an eraser on the top and simply rubbed the keys. I was amazed! All the marks were completely gone and the shiny finish was perfectly intact. I thanked Jeff and told him the next time I have a problem that I can’t find a solution to, I was coming to him for the answer. Yup, he felt pretty good about himself that day, kinda walking a little taller, knowing he saved the day!

So now, whenever I accidentally…or on purpose, leave a nail polish marks on white piano keys, I pull out an eraser and simply erase them! Kudos to Jeffrey!