Saturday, December 13, 2008

Joyful Noise

There's a young man who is important in the life of my child. He has bonded with a kid whose painful shyness makes him a tough nut to crack.

Exhibit B is bright and athletic. He's been multiplying since he was four, knows everything there is to know about most animal species and can run a sub-6:00 mile. He can kick a ball and shoot hoops like nobody's business, but at the end of the day, he's an introvert and I am not sure whether he enjoys the sports themselves or simply the time spent with his dad, coach extraordinaire. It doesn't much matter, really.

I admit it. I forced him to take piano lessons. I knew in my heart of hearts he would love it... but he's a kid for whom change is tough... and a weekly piano lesson and piano practice meant an anxiety inducing change in the routine.

On the day of the first lesson, Piano Man (PM) arrived and I was a little taken aback. He was polite, but obviously shy. He had little to say to me, though he was immediately drawn to my baby grand, which he looked over and listened to intently. When Exhibit B walked into the room, PM's demeanor changed. He is one of those people that has an instant connection with kids, and B was no exception. Smiling, I listened from the kitchen throughout those first 30 minutes and heard B open up with happy chatter. I knew it was going to be a perfect match.

Nowadays PM's arrival each week is highly anticipated. I never have to remind B to practice, and listening to the two of them joke around and play piano continues to be music to my ears, both literally and figuratively. They sometimes get silly... like renaming all the Christmas carols (I Sawed Three Ships in Half) which sends B into fits of giggles... and everyone knows that children giggling is the most joyful noise there is.

One evening PM and B got to talking and I overheard PM saying how nervous he was about his upcoming senior recital, a requirement for graduation. PM is a young husband and father who pays the bills via piano lessons while finishing his degree in music education. I was incredibly appreciative of PM's candor with B, as I know B could relate to that nervousness on many levels. B asked him more about the recital and PM started to play a few notes of some of the songs he was going to play. At the very end of the lesson, he played Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring and simply stated, "this isn't in my recital, I just like the way it flows."

I pulled PM aside that night and told him what a positive influence he was on B and thanked him for it. I also mentioned how beautifully he played and that Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring is one of my favorite pieces of classical music. There are many reasons to love that song, and I gave him a few examples of moments in my life in which I remember it as background music. I also shared with him that on days when the illness takes hold I often listen to classical music for its calming effect. We chatted about the power of music and how musical minds work.

After that night, at the end of each lesson, PM played Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. It became a routine I started to look forward to... my own personal concert at 6:25 every Thursday, and our after-lesson chats started increasing in length and depth.

Today was PM's senior recital. I got the details about it from the University and B and I showed up to sit front and center to share this important moment in PM's life. I wanted to be there to support and encourage him and allow B to see him shine despite having expressed some anxiety about the process.

As he took the stage, he was visibly nervous. All dressed up under the spotlight, just PM and a black Steinway grand. He bowed, gave some acknowledging smiles and nods, and then he began to play. The notes filled the hall with an amazing richness. He closed his eyes and let the music carry him. He was, in fact, brilliant.

He played four pieces. Between each piece he took a tentative bow, and twice he left the stage. He was doing everything in his power to keep the butterflies away from his fingers and was succeeding. He finished out the performance with a stunning rendition of Beethoven's Sonata in C minor. A look of relief rushed over his entire body as he took a final bow to a standing ovation. PM began to exit the stage but then paused at the door and turned back. This time he was calm and collected. Without even the slightest hint of nervousness he said, quite simply, "I'd like to play one more, if you don't mind."

No one minded, especially me.

Thank you for my joyful song today, PM. It was the best you've ever played it.


Brett said...

That is awesome....I love Jesu also (I think it was played by the string quintet at our weddding,but I was too busy hyperventilating to know for sure).

We should talk classical music sometime, I have a pretty extensive library if you want to borrow something.

m said...

This is a great story. Your son is lucky to have such a connection with his piano teacher.

I love reading your entries and your ability to capture the moment so we can feel like we were there too.

Courtney said...

I love classical especially that song. The George Winston CD's are amazing and a bit Christmas-y but not Christman-y at the same time. I think you'd like them! And Chris Botti- I heart him!

Anonymous said...


Sal P said...

Beautiful reminder M.

Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory. ~Oscar Wilde