You can take the girl out of the music building, but…
Recently I was back on the campus of Carson-Newman University for the senior piano recital of one of my Delta Omicron students. As the Alpha Gamma Chapter Mother, I do my best to attend these students’ recitals and share a quick moment backstage beforehand for a picture and a prayer. I remember my own recitals and all the preparation that went into them, and how grateful I was to have support from friends and family in the audience.
This particular evening I seemed especially nostalgic, remembering the hours I spent in the music building (often referred to in my circle simply as “The Building”), its classrooms, the recital hall, my voice teacher’s studio and especially my practice room.
I describe it as “my” practice room, although other students practiced in there, of course. I adopted it as my favorite because an older student, Anita, whom I viewed as a mentor, used it more than any other room, and I hoped that by practicing in there, some of her good mojo would rub off on me! I’m not sure that happened; however, I did a lot of good work in that tiny space during my student years.
My practice room was located next door to Dr. Paul Ridgway’s piano studio. The rooms, while decently insulated, were not soundproof. I often felt sorry for him and his students as I caterwauled my way through various vocal exercises before the real work of “practice” could begin. Sometimes the actual practice sounded like caterwauling, too!
Although my major was vocal performance, I was required to pass a basic piano proficiency in order to obtain my degree. I had taken no piano lessons prior to college, and beginning class piano taught me in short order that I have no talent for the instrument. My talent for colorful language as I struggled to learn the rudiments of piano, however, grew exponentially! But I did love the bright sound of the piano in my practice room, even though my mistakes often made it seem to groan under my fingers.
That same piano is still in my old practice room. And it still has the bright sound that I loved so much. That piano helped me find my pitches as I practiced my repertoire, from Schubert lieder to Italian art songs to the lush French jewels by Duparc that I loved so much. Not to mention the operatic arias! My accompanists and I worked through the musical periods, spanning centuries and continents from inside my practice room.
I joke that I kicked the walls out of frustration so many times that my footprints are in the drywall, and that I swore and sweated so much as I worked in there that my DNA is still embedded in its walls, never to be removed! In truth, though, I did leave a great deal of myself inside those walls. I sang, laughed, cried, stomped, cursed and made a lot of noise in that little room.
And, every once in a while, I made music.
I also prayed, gave and received encouragement, hugged friends and shared secrets in there. Some of the most beautiful notes I ever sang happened in there, with no one but God to hear them. I carry that little room inside me like my own DNA, part of the intricate web of elements and experiences that make me the woman I am becoming.