Stepping Back to Go Forward

I used to be a fairly good pianist. Not impressively good, I don’t think I had the raw talent and I certainly didn’t have the dedication to practicing to take it anywhere beyond a serious hobby and a minor role in my high school orchestra. But I was also far better than “knows chopsticks and picked out the melody to ‘My Heart Will Go On’ once”; 12 years of lessons (more, if you count the keyboard classes before I was old enough for private instruction) will do that to you. At the end of each school year I participated in a program called “piano guild,” in which students were tasked with playing—from memory—a number of pieces for an adjudicator. One year, I presented 10 selections by Bach. In others, I included movements of sonatas by Mozart and Haydn. So yeah, I was good.

Then I went away to college. And grad school. And across the country. And to Canada. And I just stopped playing. Sure, I occasionally got to put my fingers on a set of keys, but I never made any effort to seek out regular access to a piano so I could continue practicing regularly. 

And that’s okay. I’ve always loved making music, but it’s just something I enjoy rather than an unyielding passion for me like it is for some. So letting it fall by the wayside wasn’t a heartbreak. 

Still, though, I have always enjoyed it, so since I’m back at my parents’ house for a few months before Steve and I head off to NZ, I decided I wanted to shake some of the rust away and start playing again. My parents were kind enough to have the piano tuned, and I’ve made it a point to practice a few times each week.

Here’s the thing: I’m still good. You don’t just lose your skills at something you worked at for over a decade just because you spend some years away. I don’t remember most of the songs I once knew by heart, but I can still play them if I look at the sheet music, and they still sound pretty decent. 

The problem is this: while I know logically that I am undeniably rusty, my intuition doesn’t seem to be able to make the connection. I still have a degree of muscle memory so my fingers try to fly over the keys a tempo to hit notes they don’t quite know anymore. 

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