Tag Archives: music

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!

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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.

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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!

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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!


One Man’s Junk is Another Man’s Treasure

You’ve heard that quote before…..which simply means that something that one person considers worthless may be considered valuable by someone else. It’s the same with music. One person’s ear sore maybe someone else’s masterpiece.

One day, quite a while back, I was playing what I thought to be a beautiful piece. It began a bit unusual and tad monotonous, but only at the beginning and then developed into a flowing, gorgeous piece. I was only at the beginning of the song, when this small, elderly woman slowly approached me. She stood very close behind me, as if she was looking at the music I was playing. I could feel her breath on the back of my neck. I said hello to her, expecting that she was going to tell me how pretty the music was, but instead, she said to me in a very nasty tone, “I would think……..that you could find something better to play than this trash!” I was horrified! I tried to explain as my fingers continued; telling her that I try to play a variety of music and that maybe the next song would be more to her liking. But she didn’t say another word, she just walked away.

It was very upsetting to me and it made me nervous that she would say something so horrible to me. I began to doubt if this song was as melodious as I thought. I continued to play with as much feeling as I could muster to possibly try to make up for how hideous I was beginning to think this song was.   I was starting to believe what this woman had said to me!

As I was playing the last line of music, thankful that this debacle was almost over, I noticed a tall, dark and handsome man (no kidding) coming quickly down the escalator straight ahead. He was coming towards me. Trying not to lose my concentration and to continue playing with feeling, I came to the end of the song and hit the last note just as this man reached the piano. I seriously thought he was going to tell me that it was a hideous song and I was actually going to apologize to him for the calamity piece I chose to play, but before I could speak he asked me, “What was the name of that piece?” I timidly told him the name and he said that it was the most beautiful piano piece he had ever heard! I couldn’t believe it! He continued to go on and on about it asking questions about the composer, if he could purchase it on CD, if there were other songs like it, etc.

I thought about this the rest of that day and continue to think about it to this day, amazed at how people can look at things and hear things so differently. I guess the world would be a pretty boring place if we all liked the same things!

Aren’t you wondering what piece I was playing??


Updated: Spiders in the Piano!

Update:
Yup, you guessed it, it happened again! Last Friday night at the Marriott a young couple who was married earlier that day was hanging around the piano listening to the music. All of a sudden the bride jumps up and stomps on something. Everyone turns to see what was going on and she told us all that a spider was dangling from his web from the glass dome ceiling seven stories up! She said he dropped to the floor and she had no choice but to stomp him! We all marveled that a spider could spin a web that long so quickly. Amazing!

So we now know that there are no spiders in the piano, they just drop from the ceiling. Hmmmm, I’m not sure which is worse!


A Dentist and His Dream

Today, a dentist happened by the piano while his wife shopped. He sat down to listen and then began asking me questions such as how old I was when I started playing, if I enjoyed my job, if I taught lessons and other questions about my music.

He told me that his son and daughter were both taking piano lessons. He said his son just graduated from High School and was going to attend an out of state college in the fall and how he was going to miss his son’s everyday piano playing.  He also shared that he himself had always dreamed of learning, but never had the opportunity to take lessons as a child. I told him, “It’s never too late to learn, you have the opportunity now and you should begin lessons right away! If this is what you truly want, with determination and practice, you will learn!”

He then told me that he had been in a previous accident and held up his right hand for me to see. His hand was missing two fingers; the top two knuckles were missing on his index and middle finger.  He had about an inch of finger left. He said he didn’t know if it was possible for him.

I began to tell him that it is possible. “Anything is possible if you want it badly enough.” I told him that I recently saw an inspiring video about a Chinese girl who had no fingers at all on her right hand, but that did not stop her from learning and becoming a beautiful pianist. He excitedly told me that he saw that video too and was truly amazed! I told him that if she can do it, he can too.

I don’t know if this dentist will begin learning piano or not, but we left our conversation in agreement that anything is possible when there is determination.  As he walked away I said, “Do it now, because a year or five years down the road, you’ll bump into me again and tell me how you wished you would have made the commitment.” I have a feeling that I have not seen the last of this dentist.

Please watch this inspiring video of a young Chinese girl with no fingers on her right hand, performing so beautifully. Then ask yourself, what is stopping you from achieving your dreams?  

Girl Playing Piano
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbhW_K3NvmQ

 

 

 

 


Pink Suit, Complete with Matching Hat and Heels and Bag

It was a busy Saturday afternoon at the mall and I had just returned to the piano after taking a break. I was mostly playing what I wanted to, but also taking a few requests as people stopped by the piano. Escalators were on each side of center court and on the second floor there were balconies with railings above, overlooking the piano in center court. Many times people would stand leaning against the railings looking down at the piano. Sometimes they would wave or shout out a request from above.

Well, this particular day I noticed a well dressed lady on the second floor, sometimes leaning against the railing, sometimes pacing as if she was waiting for someone. She was a blonde lady, sporting an iconic pink suit, with a matching pillbox hat, similar to an outfit that Princess Diana had worn in the past. She moved from one side of the balcony to the other and I could almost hear her high heels clicking as she walked.  

I continued to play, as if she wasn’t there, but at the same time I was very aware of her. Maybe it was the way she was dressed, or maybe it was that she was hanging around for such a long time, or maybe it was because I thought she was staring at me. Whatever it was, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

After about a half hour, my manager approached me saying in a rather serious tone, “Shannon, if you feel like you need to take another break, go ahead and do so.” I was in the middle of a song as she passed by saying those words and I responded by saying, “I’m fine.” Puzzled, I couldn’t understand what she was talking about. She had never said that before. I always could take breaks when I felt I needed to and I had just taken a break about a half hour before. So I just shrugged it off and kept playing.

Another 15 or so minutes passed as I played and the lady was still up on the second floor, listening, waiting, pacing, staring or whatever and it was really starting to make me feel uncomfortable. I thought again of the words of my manager, wondering what was going on. Just then, straight ahead of me coming down the escalator is this lady, click, click, clicking her heels as she approaches me. I’m in the middle of playing a song and I look up at her face and OH MY! As wrong clunker notes are coming from my fingers and echoing throughout the store, I see heavy pancake makeup on a five o’clock shadow, black false eye lashes, hot pink lipstick and a blonde bombshell wig! This is no SHE, this is a HE!  

I’m in a state of shock, completely speechless when she, I mean he, says to me in a deep masculine voice, “Do you take tips?” And with a hairy masculine hand, complete with large rings, long fake fingernails painted hot pink; he slaps a five dollar bill on the piano and says, “You’re good!” He then click, click, click, walks out of the store.

I then NEEDED a break, so I hurried to the back, straight to my manager and said, “I now understand what you meant!” I told her what had just happened and she explained to me that before I was even aware of this person, he had been watching me and that they had been watching him.

Yikes, freak out! I can easily “lose myself” in my music, but this incident really helped me be more aware of who is around me and I learned the lesson that things are not always as they seem.


Road Sign Rage

Have you ever been driving behind a pickup truck that had a bunch of junk in the back and wondered what would happen if something they were hauling fell off and hit your car; or landed in the middle of the road and there was nothing you could do other than hit it?

One time I was traveling on the interstate going to a gig, following a pickup truck while I was talking to my sister on my cell phone. I noticed a blue ball in the back of that truck bouncing around. You know the kind of ball I mean, a kid’s ball you could pick up for a few dollars at Wal-Mart, about the size of a basketball. As I was driving, talking with my sister, I kept watching that ball bouncing around in the back of that truck, when all of a sudden the wind caught it and literally carried that ball until SMACK! It hit my windshield! I couldn’t believe it; I ducked, jumped and thought it was going to hit me in the face! Luckily it was so light and soft, it just bounced off into the ditch. It didn’t hurt my windshield, but it sure scared me! I said to my sister, “You won’t believe what just happened!” And I told her the details.

I’m sure everyone has followed a flat bed semi with his load tied down….and have you ever wondered what you would do if one of those ties broke or came loose and whatever he was hauling came at you? I have wondered those things many times before, but never have I wondered what I would do if I saw a road sign coming at me! I mean, I’ve passed many road signs in my numerous miles of traveling, but never have I given road signs a second thought. Have you ever hit a road sign before? Have you ever had a road sign hit you? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me yesterday morning going to work.

I was traveling on an 11 mile stretch of a county highway and there were workers doing something to the middle lines on the road. It looked like they had put tar on the lines and then coated them with sand. I saw one sign that said “Fresh Tar”. Every so often there were signs posted that said “No Road Markings”.  This went on for most of the 11 miles of this particular road.  I was just driving along minding my own business when all of a sudden, a gust of wind picked up one of those signs that was held down by sand bags and thrust it into the side of my car. It was going to hit my windshield but I swerved into the other lane and it hit the side of my car instead! I was shocked and upset! As soon as could, I pulled over, got out and looked at my car. There was a nice dent and both front and back passenger doors are all scraped up. Why do all the crazy things happen to me!?

Well, I guess I wouldn’t have much to write about if only ‘normal’ things happen to me.  At least ‘crazy’ keeps life interesting! So, keep reading my blog, I have a lifetime of crazy to share!


Spiders in the Piano?

I was playing at the Marriott one night in the spring a couple of years ago. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw something scurrying on the white keys. When I looked down, there was nothing there, so I kept playing. (Little did I know, there was a spider hiding in the corner of one of the keys.) I continued to play. Soon, I felt something under my finger as it touched the keys, something small and soft, I glanced down again, but saw nothing. I was in the middle of a song and to stop and examine the keys wasn’t something I had time to do. Not until the song was finished.

After playing the last note of the song, I looked thoroughly at the keyboard and sure enough, there was a spider, hiding in the corner of the keys. My heart raced and I screeched aloud as I saw him. (I hate spiders!) I brushed him off and stomped on him.

Now, if you see a spider in a place like that, wouldn’t you think it was a freak incident and forget about it? Well, that’s what I did…until the next time.

So I continue playing. A few hours later, something catches my eye on the key cover, which was in the upright position (open position). Remembering the previous spider incident, my heart again raced and I immediately knew it was another spider! This time I screamed, stopped playing in the middle of a song and jumped up from the piano bench, everyone is staring now. Again I brushed it off and stomped on it. I hurried to the front desk and told them about the spiders and asked them if they would send over the maintenance man, Greg.

Greg came armed with a flashlight and bug spray. As he looked inside, I expected him to find a nest of them. He meticulously examined the piano, but couldn’t find a thing, not even a web. Weird!

So now, I’m completely freaked out, thinking another spider is going to appear at any moment. I continued to play for my shift and saw no more spiders that night.

Now, I don’t remember if it was one or two weeks later….maybe even three, but one Thursday or Friday night soon after that, I was again playing at the Marriott like I do every week. The piano is located in the middle of an atrium that is surrounded by seven stories of floors. On one end of this huge space is a three-story waterfall, with two lighted glass elevators on each side. The roof is a dome of glass, seven stories up.

So, I was in the middle of a song when all of a sudden I noticed a spider hanging right in front of my face between my music pad and me! I was horrified and screamed! No way could I continue with the song I was playing. I abruptly stopped the song, jumped up, backed away and that spider just hung there…I’m looking at it trying to figure out where he came from. There he is…hanging from a web. With my eye, I followed that web as far as I could see it, that spider spun that web from seven stories up. He was hanging from the ceiling! I couldn’t believe it! He almost landed on my head!

That entire summer I was pretty squeamish playing there, looking for more spiders, but saw no more that year. However, the following spring I did see one more spider on the keys, but none since that.

Hmmm…It’s spring again.


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!


Flying Choir Music

Our choir had been working on a difficult piece for weeks and weeks. It was finally time to perform it for the congregation. There were many parts and many pages to this difficult piece. Everyone was ready and everyone knew their parts. Since there were so many pages to this song, I copied as many as would fit on the ‘desk’ of the piano and laid them out singly so I could see each page. But there wasn’t enough room for all the pages, so I had to put the choir book to the right of all the single pages. I was still going to have to turn just one page of the book to complete the song and I was ready.

I played for the prelude, the congregation hymns, there was an offertory and a prayer, then it was time for the choir to come and sing. I made sure all of my music was properly laid out, I tried to calm myself down, (I get nervous) I looked at the choir director, he nodded at me and away we go! First the intro…..then the choir began so beautifully, I’m reading the music as we go and everything is just wonderful, I’m smiling, everyone is in tune, the piano is in tune, then comes time to turn that page….at the very end of the piano desk….way over to my right. I reach to turn the page, the page that has been turned so many times, the page that has become rather worn and brittle. Well, what happens next is a disaster. I turn the page, it completely rips out of the book and before I knew it, I had thrown that page into the front row of the congregation! Now, I don’t know what I played at that time since my music was gone, I just kept playing and the choir sang on. Luckily, someone in that front row grabbed the page, brought it up to me and placed it on the piano desk, but unknowingly she placed the page upside down! I quickly grabbed it with my right hand (my left hand continues playing something, to this day have no idea what) and turned that page right side up.

So we finished the song, the choir exited and the service began. Afterwards, I heard many comments about how well the choir sang and of course, talk of the flying choir music. (I’ll never live that one down!) I also learned that most of the choir members didn’t have a clue at what had happened. I’m so glad I now use a music pad and don’t have to worry about turning pages anymore! I use my foot to turn pages now. My hands are too busy! The one limb (left foot) that used to do nothing, now has an important job. It turns my pages with a foot pedal. I love technology!


Crazy Christmas March

This reminds me of another incident where the music takes over and a person can’t help but get into the beat.  It was at the beginning of Christmas season and the store always uses a lot of empty boxes that were wrapped as Christmas presents for decking the halls. One of the associates was carrying a load of them in her arms….I would guess there were ten of them stacked on top of each other according to size, big on bottom and small on top. They were stacked so high that she couldn’t see over top of them. She had to hold them to the side so she could see. Luckily, they weren’t heavy because they were empty. So there I am playing the piano, I don’t remember what I was playing, only that it had a heavy March like beat. I can hear her heels clicking as she walked, coming up from behind me. Each click of her heel was with the beat of the music. (I knew by the sound of her heels who it was, Mary, a friend of mine.) Of course to be ornery, I decided to speed up the music. Her pace quickens to keep up with the beat. I go a little faster. She walks a little faster. By the time I can see her, her stomping is loud and fast, she’s lifting up her knees high, doing a March to the beat. She’s doing this to make me laugh and its working. I’m cracking up laughing at her and she’s looking at me laughing and marching, people are staring, just as I don’t think it could possibly get any more funny, all the boxes…yes all ten of them came crashing down! It was so funny and everyone who stopped to stare was cracking up too! Mary quickly regained her composure, picked up all the boxes, brushed herself off and went on her way.

Hmmm……I’m now reminded of another funny dance story from behind the grand piano that involves bubble wrap. I think I’ll save that for next time.