A Lifetime of Music
Growing up in a house with 7 kids, 2 parents and a dog was full of activity and motion. We had a piano downstairs and once in a great while I would hear my mom or dad play it – Music was in my life from early on – my dad loved Nancy Sinatra, while mom loved Andy Williams, Henry Mancini and many others. I remember a favorite was Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass Whipped Cream album! My dad had a stereo and turntable in his library, where we also would gather to watch TV, and we watched The Sound of Music and The Wizard of OZ many times.
I don’t remember how old I was when we all were signed up for piano lessons. Our teacher would see each of us sometimes through the dinner hour. I remember telling her I learned a new song. I figured out how to play it on my own without the music and she was not interested in the least. I found reading music rather difficult but hearing a song and playing it came much more naturally. I may not have learned it in the correct key but it was recognizable and that was all I cared about. Our teacher would have us do scales and I remember our music would be all filled in with the actual key letter rather than us learning the notes by sight. Somehow I just was not able to grasp it all. Learning to read and play both hands was hard!
The piano was my go to place – I think it was an outlet for me to feel what I was feeling or just a place I could trust was mine for the time being. With all my brothers and sisters I was very lucky not to have to wait very often for a turn to play.
I would play the songs my parents liked such as Moon River, Send in the Clowns or Somewhere My Love and lots of Christmas songs. Then I started to learn songs that I liked or ones that I would hear my siblings play like Elton John, The Who, Seals and Crofts or even Jeff Beck!
As I learned my way around the keyboard, I was able to figure out more and more songs. In Middle school I was selected to play the Overture for the Wizard of Oz, which was all by ear. Then in High School I played in a talent show. Scared to death I was! It was not the same playing for an audience. I would get so nervous and it made it hard to play the way I rehearsed it. The curtain opened and I froze for a minute not remembering how the song started!!
After I got married my parents were selling our home and offered me the family piano! I was SO excited – it was hard to be without one since it felt like my go to place for dealing with my feelings. Somewhere along the way I learned to improvise and just make something up so that I was not so worried about making a mistake. When I got divorced after 12 years, the piano saved my life in a way. I would play for hours while my son was visiting his dad and it was music therapy for me! And when my mom was sick and her health failing, music was something she could still enjoy. I remember making a cassette tape of my music for her to listen to. After she passed away, I was able to play at her funeral service to honor her. I never thought I would be composed enough to manage that but there was a strength that came over me and I played what my heart felt. When I improvise I usually can’t play the same thing twice since I’m making it up as I go. I had to figure out how to end the song or when to stop. After her death I made a recording of several improvisations and some of her favorite songs like Misty and Moon River and dedicated it to her.
When my only son left for college that was another big adjustment for me. The piano once again was my go to place. I wanted more joy in my life and I ended up joining a community chorus and had to audition by singing Silent Night. I was so nervous I almost didn’t stay for the audition, however, I got through it and was invited to join. I started singing and built up my confidence as an alto. That was in 2010 and in 2016 I wrote my first song with lyrics! And that song was Pretty Little Red Bird, which is the title of my new album and is once again in honor of my mom!
Love motivates creativity! I have such a passion for songwriting now. I never in a million years would have thought I’d be singing and writing songs and now I absolutely love it. I am hooked!