I did it! By George, I did it. In other words, Mission Accomplished!
Friends, nearly two years ago I took up the piano once again with only one goal in mind:
To once again learn to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” as I’d played it back in the day, when I was still in high school.
I began taking piano lessons and frankly, even though I had taken lessons in my teens, I was, essentially, starting over. My teacher, Criseida, bless her soul, would encourage me and say I was picking it up quite nicely as if some of it was coming back to me. But I knew I was terrible. The worst. All thumbs! And don’t get me started on quarter notes versus half notes. I still can’t tell the difference!
Honestly there were times I thought of dropping out. I made a huge mistake, I kept telling myself. But Criseida kept giving me new homework assignments of musical selections that I’d have to learn. Yikes.
What saved me from quitting were the Sonatinas. How I loved learning those! Thankfully, I have a whole book of nothing but Sonatinas. My favorites include “Sonatina Op. 36, No. 1” by Muzio Clementi and “Sonatina Op. 39, No. 1” by Frank Lynes.
To die for! A pure delight on the ears. I kept wanting to play them faster and faster and Criseida kept insisting I slow down and play them as the composers intended. Sigh. No matter, for those Sonatinas kept me progressing in my lessons.
Yet with every new selection I’d learn to play, I kept thinking of the “Moonlight Sonata,” the classic standard that should be in every pianist’s repertoire. I’d look over the songbook, wondering if I was ready to learn it, and I’d ask Criseida for her opinion.
“No,” she’d gently say. “Not yet.”
Not by a long shot, I’m sure is what she wanted to say.
So I kept playing other, easier pieces, all the while thinking fondly of the “Moonlight Sonata.”
But then about two months ago, I asked Criseida again. Am I ready to start working on the “Moonlight Sonata?”
To my surprise, she nodded, though it occurred to me she was probably exhausted from my constant asking.
Well, it took me a month to conquer the first page—and, for the record, the First Movement of the “Moonlight Sonata” is a whopping SIX pages!
For weeks I’d play the first page and stop. Criseida would try to turn to the next page, but I’d panic. I simply wasn’t ready to move beyond the first page. After all, those other pages seemed impossible!
But Criseida persisted, telling me to just try the first measure on page two, and by the next lesson, I’d mastered the first and second measures of that page. Criseida was impressed!
Then one day, while Criseida was on vacation, I decided to power through the entire piece. Not caring whether it would take me all day, I was ready!
All this to say that, as of today, I can officially, play the entire six pages of the Moonlight Sonata!
Let me say that again: I can now comfortably read and perform the entire piece!! By George, I really did it.
And when Criseida returned from her vacation last week, boy, was she in for a surprise. She listened to me play the entire piece—with only a few mistakes, mind you. Well, maybe a dozen, but the point is, I played it! Somebody pinch me please!
Now, let’s see if I can do anything about tap dancing. My weekly lessons often seem futile. I follow along with the instructor as best I can, but as soon as the class is over, I can’t remember any of the dance steps to try to practice at home. And for some reason, the instructor refuses to come home with me and be at my beck and call for when I want to practice. Ugh.
So, piano—yes! Tap dancing, maybe next year. In the meantime, I’ll keep plowing away at both.
you reminded me my childhood
I think that’s good. Sometimes our happiest memories are from when we were young. Too young to know better. 😉
Wow, does this column really resonate with me, right down to Moonlight Sonata. I can play the beginning of it and have over and over. And over. Same with the beginning of Minute Waltz. I took lessons in my late teens, then in my 30s and again in my 40s. I still have my piano and would like to take lessons again but now I have trouble reading notes because in the past I relied too much on playing from memory or by ear. And regarding dance, I’ve never taken tap but have all kinds of ballroom dancing, and also clogging. Can’t remember the clogging steps so I’m looking to going back to classes in September at Balboa Park. The steps come right back as soon as you’re in the class.
Take up the piano again, and push yourself to learn the notes. It’s so worth it! You will feel so good about yourself when you do. Maybe someday we’ll both be performing in recitals. Wouldn’t that be fun?
That’ll be the day!!! ( The, uh, Double Concerto). Thanks for the encouragement, Monica.
Well done you!!!
When I was younger I wanted to play a musical instrument but never did, no doubt much to the relief of my parents because I wanted to learn to play the bagpipes!!
Classical music can be so relaxing to listen to. I recently bought a HomePod and I love sitting listening to the wide range of classical music it gives me access to.
Just imagine the concert you could give, you at the grand piano and the dogs, one each side howling along in tune!! I can see it now….
When I started my lessons two years ago, my teacher asked me what did I want to learn, jazz, pop or classical. I didn’t take more than a second to answer: Classical. For me, it’s always been in me, the desire to play classical music. That’s piano music in its purest form. I love it! Robert, it’s never too late to learn an instrument and the sense of accomplishment it gives, is undeniable!
I can’t see me learning an instrument now, no time with all the jobs the wife is finding me since I took early retirement.
I will settle for listening to it.
Woo-Hoo, Monica!! Pat yourself on the back, my friend. Moonlight Sonata isn’t an easy one to play (I, too, played it in high school). But I know what you mean about starting over. I’m doing that with Band … on a different instrument. But hey, I wouldn’t take a hundred dollars for the enjoyment I’ve gotten, the knowledge and skills I’ve attained, and the dexterity in my fingers, ha! You keep on keeping on — and one day, if we ever actually meet in person, you can accompany me and my flute in that recital!
I would love to accompany you on my trusty piano, aka, my keyboard. I love it. It really has brought me so much joy. Not at first, when I was struggling to learn. Lately, though. I find myself excited to go home and practice. I feel so accomplished. I mean, I could veg out and watch TV all day on the weekends, or I can practice and develop a talent. Which is more fulfilling, I ask? Well we both know the answer to that!
You and me both!! I find myself getting crabby if I miss a day’s practice. There’s something wonderful about challenging myself and rising to the challenge!