Two months ’til 40 and counting

After talking about it for years, I finally started beginner piano lessons last spring, in part because the approach of my 40th birthday felt like  a good deadline.

I fantasized about learning a song that I’d be comfortable playing in public, maybe even hosting a big 40th birthday bash with New Orleans Bingo Show headlining and with me playing my 40th birthday song as a sort of boozy grown up recital.

Today I’m exactly two months out from my 40th birthday and realistically, I don’t see it happening. And that’s OK.

I’ve come a long way since my first lesson: I’m learning to read music, to play scales, to keep time, to have my left and right hands do independent things. I can look at a new piece of sheet music, puzzle out what I need to do, and if I go at it slowly, I can make the song emerge from the page.

But it’s going to be a while before I’m ready to play a song in front of people. I sometimes lose my way, or clunk the wrong note, and am still learning to recover and keep going when that happens.

John and I went to Arthur’s Tavern recently to see traditional jazz with the Grove Street Stompers. I watched the pianist in rapt attention as he effortlessly called over his shoulder to ask the trumpeter what key she wanted the next transition in — he could talk, play and transpose without breaking a sweat, and I’m still working on tapping my foot while I play.

When they took a break, I asked how long he’d been playing. He’d put himself through Yale playing piano — 55 years ago.

Yes, I’d love to play like Dick Voigt, shown here with his Big Apple Jazz Band, but I’m not going to hold myself to the standard of someone who’s got quite a few decades on me.  I think it’s more important for me to celebrate my 40th birthday as part of a journey than to beat myself up about what destination I have or haven’t achieved.

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Categories: creativity, lifestyle

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5 replies

  1. Thanks, all.
    Ruth, I totally get what you’re saying and I think you’re right — at some point, I’ll need to swallow some butterflies and be OK with playing an imperfect song in front of people.
    Booze might help, Charlene. Either for them or for me.
    But I think at the moment, I’m a little more in Margaret’s camp. I realized I need to be enjoying the process just for me, and if it’s a little slow, then so be it.
    Vince, maybe I can record something by 50? That gives me a decade to master Jingle Bells …

  2. I agree with Ruth – go for it. Just get everyone good and liquored up first. 🙂 And congrats on turning 40 – very exciting!!

  3. I have been taking guitar lessons for several years but I never play in front of people. That’s not what I take lessons for. I take them for me.

    Other people have different goals when learning an instrument, but my only goal was “learn how to play that.” And that’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay.

  4. If you’re exactly two months out, you’re day is one ahead of mine, 3/17 🙂

    I know you’ll achieve your dream of playing and it will be lovely no matter when it arrives.

    I visited a far-away friend with a recording studio this summer and we tracked two songs together with me reviving my long-dormant drum skills at 50. It, too was inspired by a milestone goal 🙂

  5. I say go public; if you wait ’til you’re “ready” you might never get there.

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