Better or Best?A picture of a refinished "shabby"upright piano captivated my attention this morning when I visited a website that I frequent often, and I was drawn to click on the link that led me to this insightful article "Come As You Are; Bring What You Have." The author compared the merits of having a live pianist vs. a piece played with recorded perfection, and her description of pianistic inadequacy captured the emotion most pianists have experienced at some point in their lifetime. But despite the author's imperfect playing, she was preferred as the "best" accompaniment source.
The image of the shabby upright made me think of the old player piano that I learned to play the piano on, and it brought back memories from the past filled with the emotion tied to music that spilled from the keys. From the perspective of the experts, it wasn't the ideal instrument. It was usually not in tune, and has gotten worse through the years, and yet when I sit down to play it in my parent's home, it can evoke even more powerful emotions than my nicer, newer Kawaii. It's melancholy tone reminds me of harder times in my teen years, when my dad was diagnosed with debilitating polymyositis that made it difficult for him to dress, walk, and work for a period of time. As a result the piano lessons that I loved, ceased for a time until a generous teacher in my area offered to teach me in exchange for some work that I'm sure did not fully equate to her usual typical compensation rate.
It was at this piano where my mom listened with tears rolling down her cheeks as she looked over my shoulder and read these lyrics from "Memory" (from Cats) and wondered if my dad would ever recover, or if she would be left a widow with 6 children.
"I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I mustn''t give in.
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin."
I found solace each Sunday at my piano as I played and sang words like
"I know God lives. I know he loves me. I know he hears me and he answers when I pray." (Testimony, by Janice Kapp Perry) and was soothed by one of my favorite arrangements by Marvin Goldstein, "My Heavenly Father Loves Me." I derived some much joy from mastering measures at a time and having the satisfaction of feeling I was getting better when I eventually began to play some of the melodies from the masters that I had heard on my dad's old vinyl records for years.
So although my piano playing skills are still not perfect and my old piano could barely pass as good from a bystanders view, I'm grateful that the melodies that come from its keys still bring me back to a time in my life with some of the best memories, when the dream of someday becoming a piano teacher started to form and the emotive melodies touched my heart in an unforgettable way. I love these closing lines from the article that inspired this post and remind me that my best efforts are enough because life is more about being better every day, than just being the best.