My musical story
In 1964 when I was 11, my parents decided that my sister and I should take piano lessons. A local music store was offering a deal where, rather than buying a piano for your child’s beginning lessons, you could rent one for six months and see how it went. You would then have the option to buy the piano or return it to the store if it was ruining everyone’s lives. After six months of lessons on a huge old upright piano, my sister and I had progressed to the point where that piano was returned but, in its place, a brand new spinet was delivered to the house. (Much more attractive and quieter too!) As lessons continued over the next couple years, hymns and the music of Bach and Beethoven became part of my studies.
In my early teens, my mother worked as a volunteer at the local hospital, One day she told me about a patient who told her he did something called “playing by ear.” Apparently, if he knew the melody of a song, he could just sit down at the piano and play a fully harmonized arrangement with no books or sheet music. What? People can do that? I was astounded! I had to learn how to do that myself!
I had always been able to pick out melodies on a keyboard so I suppose I was already playing by ear on a very rudimentary level. The task before me was learning how to add notes in the right and left hands to put an accompaniment to a melody in real time. I would compare that process to the process of a child learning to speak. A toddler begins to learn words, their meanings, and how to pronounce them. Over time, the child learns how nouns and verbs work together and starts to speak in simple sentences. As vocabulary grows, the speaking becomes more complex and soon the child is conveying thoughts, wants, and opinions in real time with out hesitation. (Often times without stopping.) On piano, I began to learn chords, their “meaning” within a tune, and how to play them. Over time, I learned how chords and melody worked together and I was able to play simple musical phrases. As my “vocabulary” of chords and their variations grew, my playing became more complex, and eventually (not soon) I was able to play arrangements of songs in real time if I knew the melody.
A time finally came when I was able to express my own musical thoughts and I began to compose. My first compositions were instrumental piano pieces. Over the years, I began to add lyrics, composing for rock operas, musicals, and church services but on this album, “Piano Musings,” I have returned to my roots, recording 14 solo piano pieces. Some are a couple years old, some have been brewing for over 40 years. All of them express an emotion or tell a story. In a very real way they are autobiographical.
I still have the desire to express myself musically and am excited to find what music still lies ahead. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy “Piano Musings” until my next album comes out.