Tag Archives: piano

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

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!

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

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.