One Hundred

I love seeing birthday celebrations for those who’ve made it to one-hundred. A century is a log time-so many things to witness and experience. These individuals always seem to have a funny, yet wise piece of advice. Two I recently read were-just keep going and take naps. ❤

Birthday Wish

I always say
I’d like to live
At least a
Hundred years
Since I’m over
Half-way there
The thought doesn’t
Seem so strange
My family would plan
A great big party
Biggest cake
You’ve ever seen
With one hundred
Sparkling candles
Lighting up
The entire room
Sitting at the piano
I’d play a familiar tune
As party guests loudly sang
Happy birthday to me!
I’d blow out all the candles
And make my birthday wish
A hundred-year-old hope
For lasting peace and rest

100 Years-Five for Fighting
I’m ninety nine for a moment
Dying for just another moment
And I’m just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are
Fifteen there’s still time for you
Twenty two I feel her too
Thirty three you’re on your way
Every day’s a new day
Fifteen there’s still time for you
Time to buy and time to choose
Hey fifteen, there’s never a wish better than this
When you only got hundred years to live

In Tune

Last week a piano technician came and tuned my new piano. Even though it is a beautiful new instrument, there are several reasons it needed tuning. Being moved to a new location. Sitting in a different space, with different temperatures, on a different type of floor. All factors that affect the way it sounds.

I listened as the technician worked. She listened to such tiny details. The way she would tune one note to its octave counterpart. When I played those notes together in a chord, I didn’t notice that they were out of tune. But hearing her pick them all apart, it was obvious.

The mechanics of a piano are fascinating. My explanation to students is usually simplified. Your finger presses down the key, which causes a hammer inside the piano to strike a string producing the sound.

Watching my piano being taken apart, actually viewing the insides, gave me a new perspective. Each piece has its place and must be perfectly aligned to produce a high-quality sound. Even a new piano needs time to adjust and sometimes requires a little assistance.

One thing stood out above the rest, voicing. I asked the technician about adjusting the voicing, making it a little less bright. Basically, taking the edge off of the sound. She explained that part of that process involves the felt material on the hammers.

A needle is used to soften the felt. When done correctly, it does not damage the material. It just slightly changes the way the hammers strike the strings.

Once the piano was put back together, I sat down to play. Wow! What a difference. Not only was it in tune, but it also had a much warmer tone. The sharp edge had been softened.

This experience made me think about my life. What if I’m in a new place, with new surroundings, expectations, and people? What if my reaction is one of fear or frustration? My words may sound edgy, sharp, or out of tune.

Like the felt on those hammers, something inside me needs to be softened. An adjustment might come in the form of an honest word from a trusted friend. Yes, stings for a moment. But the sting will not last if accepted with grace. The knowledge that someone loves me that much, however, is lasting.

Hopefully, as I continue playing my piano, I will be reminded to check my own tone. And will gracefully accept any needed adjustments to keep me in-tune with my husband and children, family and friends, the world around me.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17

Schumann Arabesque Opus 18. One of my favorite piano pieces. Only the beginning theme and the conclusion. ❤

For My Dad

My dad loves classic country music. Growing up, we would always listen to The Grand Ole Opry on AM radio, static and all. Sometimes, it would drive me crazy but thinking about it now makes me smile.

He also had quite a collection of 8 track tapes, all country, that we would listen to in his truck. Charlie Pride, Charlie Rich, Loretta Lynn, and Conway Twitty were some of his favorites. And though I don’t currently listen much to country music, I loved listening to it back then.

That love stemmed from two things. First, it was, and still is, great music. But more importantly, it was my dad’s music. And for that reason, it will continue to influence my life.

Music has so much variety, so many genres. Each new style influenced by the previous. Whether I like them all or not, I can appreciate them for their place in music history.

I have recently shared some recordings of myself playing favorites on the piano. They’ve included some Classical Scarlatti, Romantic Brahms, hymns and James Taylor. Honestly, no country songs crossed my mind…until now.

My mom called after listening to my latest recording. We chatted for a few minutes. As we were about to say goodbye, I could hear my dad in the background. My mom chuckled and said, “Dad says you need to record his favorite song.”

So, what is his favorite song? It is a piano solo recorded by country musician Floyd Cramer in 1960. If my dad ever has a music request for me, it is that song. I learned to play it years ago.

Why had I not thought to record this song already? I do not know.

Here ya go, Dad! ❤

Last Date

Notes on a Page

Revisiting a page
Filled with notes
First learned
Many years ago
A glance brings
Faded memories
Of piano keys
Under my fingers
Muscle memory begins
To clear away
Cobwebs collected
In silence
Words and symbols
Carefully written
On the page
Bring a smile
Valuable reminders
Purposefully placed by
The trusted hand
Of a teacher-
Oh, if only
Squinting eyes
Revealed someone
Sitting nearby-
A guide
Patiently leading
Beyond space
And time
Beyond notes
And rhythms
Shedding light
On the mysterious
Sound of
Rich harmonies
Surrounding
Hidden melodies
Listening intently as
Eyes and hands
Once again read
Notes on a page

~In memory of Dr. William Trantham~

Special Delivery

There is something I have wanted for quite a while. A material possession, but so much more. An object, but also an extension of my being.

If you are a musician, you will understand. An artist, a writer-anyone who utilizes something material to help express their innermost thoughts, emotions, and feelings-you will relate.

I am sure you have guessed by now. A piano.

I have played many pianos in my lifetime. Starting with the old upright at my grandmother’s house and then the spinet my parents bought me when I was a girl. We have had a couple of pianos in our home. The most recent, an electronic piano.

While I am thankful for the technological capabilities, I miss practicing on an acoustic piano. Due to my recent neck and arm issues, I struggle with the touch. Now that we are home for this unknown period, I desperately want to practice.

I know he will not want any recognition, but he is getting it anyway. My sweet husband understands this connection to the piano. He understands my need to play.

We had been talking about getting a new piano. Looking ahead to summer. Those kinds of plans are easier to focus on when school is not in session. Then everything changed.

Suddenly, there was no more going back after spring break. The reality that we would be home for an extended time began to set in. I began to feel restless.

After some research, we arranged for me to safely test out four pianos. The one I chose was delivered last week. My mom has already received a recording. Some friends suggested a FaceTime concert. The possibilities are endless!

No, this does not change our current world situation. However, it will bring a little joy to my corner of the world. And just maybe, that joy will spread. That is certainly my hope. On that note, here are my first couple of recordings.

By the Numbers

I have always been fascinated by the connections between music and math. And I love using math concepts to teach music. No, they are not exactly the same. But they do work together beautifully.

Today in music class, students were introduced to that connection. And they used it to become composers.

The premise was simple. Students would write four sets of four numbers (using only 1-5) on a notecard. The groups of numbers would then be translated into a melody, using the notes C, D, E, F, and G.

Before students chose their number groups, we talked about patterns. First, we studied the patterns on the keyboard. We discussed how numbers in a pattern can step up and down, skip, or repeat. Just like a melody.

2, 3, 2, 3…

With this in mind, each student received a notecard. They divided it into fourths, creating four boxes. Each box was then filled with four numbers of their choosing.

There were students, notecards, and pencils everywhere! It was loud! Controlled chaos, I like to say. But it was awesome!

Once students completed their pattern cards, I planned to play their melodies on the piano.

The response from my fifth-grade class was precious. And “precious” is not a word I often use to describe fifth graders. 😉

As I began to play the compositions, students huddled around the piano. Each one crowded in, trying to hand me their card next. Each one sheepishly smiled as they heard their creation. I wish I could have snapped a picture.

Maybe the actual composing was more logic than creativity. But the outcome was music, nonetheless. Even if it was music created by the numbers.

Grandma’s Piano

The image remains
Though faded
Old and upright
Tall, black, majestic
Eighty-eight keys in a row
Sitting on the bench
Beautiful patterns
Come into focus
Two-three-two-three
A perfect guide
For little hands
Learning to play
Roll knuckles up
Tap twice
Repeat
Roll knuckles down
Tap twice
Repeat
I dropped
My dolly
In the dirt
A love that began
With simple melodies
Played on ivories
Prominently placed
In Grandma’s
Dining room
How I wish
I could play
Those simple melodies
One more time
For my Grandma
On her old piano

A Time to Share

I know hymns are sometimes viewed as old fashioned. But there are moments when they enter my thoughts like a long-lost friend. I picture the hymnal page in my head, each note in its place.

That picture transfers from my brain to my hands and the piano keys. Hearing the melody revives the words. The hymns I think of most often speak of grace, peace, and prayer.

This happened yesterday. I was preparing for the school day to begin, and one of my favorite hymns came to mind. So, I sat down at the piano and began to play.

After playing it in several different ways, I decided to record myself. I don’t do that very often, but I liked the way the music was sounding. As I listened to the recording, I began to think of sharing.

Sometimes I love technology. In a matter of minutes, I emailed my recording to a few family/friends. I chose the first three names that came to mind.

Not long after, I received three replies. Each sweet thank you made me smile. Yes, playing calmed my thoughts before students arrived for class. But this same music brought joy and peace to three others, miles apart.

At the end of the school day, I felt exhausted. I closed my classroom door, allowing the sounds of the day to fade away. Choosing another favorite hymn, I once again began to play. And once again, I hit the record button.

I have not played the second recording for anyone else yet. For now, It will serve as a reminder. A reminder that beginning and ending the day sitting at the piano, spending time with old friends, bring peace. A peace which, if shared, has the power to impact those around me.

Hmmm…maybe it’s time to share them both now. 😉

Heart and Soul

My parents attend a small church in Wye Mountain, Arkansas. The people are kind and serve as a beautiful light in their community. Each Wednesday evening they welcome, feed, love, and teach a large group of children. And those without transportation? They pick them up and take them back home.

The building is simple. A beautiful, stained glass window graces the wall behind the podium. A piano sits to the left. There are no fancy lights, no choir, and no band. Only a few microphones and speakers. And there is always coffee in the kitchen.

Every time I visit, mom asks me to bring piano music. My trip last weekend was no different. Of course, I forgot and had to go music shopping on Saturday. I chose a new book of hymn arrangements and picked two to play during the service on Sunday.

My Aunt Linda, who happened to be my first piano teacher, plays for the services each week. I saw her Sunday morning before the service began, gave her a hug, and she asked, “Are you playing today?” I smiled, “Yes.” “Want to play for the whole service?” she asked. “I’ll do whatever you want me to do.”

And so, I played the hymns and this precious group of people sang along. I also played my carefully chosen solo. As I began to play, the air grew still. The only sounds flowed from the piano.

The melody in this particular arrangement was a familiar hymn tune. One I remember from childhood. One which brings peace.

I need Thee every hour,
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine,
Can peace afford.
I need Thee, O I need Thee,
Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, Savior,
I come to Thee.

After the service, many people thanked me for playing. Truthfully, I should have been thanking them. Being with them reminded me of how sweet it is when people worship together in simplicity.

Experiencing last Sunday morning from behind the piano (my favorite spot 😉 ) filled my heart and soul to overflowing.