Stories from the piano
When I see a piano that is unplayed, I feel jarred. An instrument from which you can make music, quiet. I wonder: there could be music here, but there isn't. There's nobody there to play. At the same time, I feel like the sound of music may cheer people up; surprise them, make them think, give them a little moment of joy. That, and my love of playing piano, is why I like to play music in public, at pianos that you will often find in train stations and airports.
When I first started playing on public pianos, I was nervous: what if I wasn't good enough? What if someone better who could sit down and play instead? Through sitting down and playing, I realised these reservations were not worth thinking about. Like in writing, or coding, or anything, there is always someone better out there. I thought that music -- perhaps with mistakes -- was better than no music at all in a place where a piano is located. There is almost a siren call: play.
I enjoy seeing other people play piano. I met a talented person who, I later found out, studied computer science and moved onto a different field. For over a decade, he had been playing piano in his spare time, refining his music. Among many other songs, this person played Canon in D, one of my favourite classical piano songs. It is amazing when you are out and about and you hear someone perform a song that you enjoy, especially one of such complexity.
I have seen a young person -- perhaps aged between six and nine -- practice his piano skills on a public piano, reading sheet music from an iPad. Indeed, that challenges the notion of a fear of not being good enough to play in public. This person was learning in public, and making music in the process.
When I play, I find that my focus goes away from what is around me and onto the notes in the music. I find that, even if I have played a song many times over before, I always need to focus on the notes. I want to do my best while occasionally trying something new to see if I can learn something too. However, as I play, I often see people walk by and say -- or gesture, in the form of the occasional solitary clap -- that they enjoyed listening to what I was playing. In these moments, I feel joyful. I prepare in my head the next song to play and begin playing. I recently played a piano that faced away from a lot of the people who were listening. Someone came over to say that people were enjoying the music, even though I could not see them; a memorable gesture indeed.
Recently, I was playing and there was a young child in front of the piano with their parents. The child seemed fascinated by the music. When I stopped playing, he reacted a little bit, so as to indicate he noticed that the music had stopped but may not have known why. I hope that young people see others play piano and wonder "how are they doing that?", from the simplest of songs to the most complicated. That feeling of wonder is special.
Throughout playing, I have acquired many small memories. The time when someone anonymously left an inspirational quote on the piano while I was playing, whose identity I will never know; the time when I spoke with an older woman who told me of pianos in other train stations that I had not played. The time when I enjoyed listening to a a university student play music while her friend sat and watched. They both looked happy. These moments, and many others, wouldn't have happened without those public pianos. Irrespective of skill level, playing piano around others gives you the power to make music and brighten someone's day.
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