September 20, 2008

The Piano

I kind of rearranged my apartment today and played my piano again for the first time in a year. When we were growing up, me and my brother and sister all had to take piano lessons. We had a Steinway grand piano in our house. I remember going to Steinway Hall in midtown with my parents to pick it out. Our salesman had a moustache. I think he either quit or retired not long after we got ours, I can't remember. Anyway, that piano cost more than my parents' cars. My parents explained that it was a good investment, since Steinway and Sons' policy is that if you ever feel the need to exchange or sell the piano, they will always pay you what you paid for it. I think we traded in our old upright for the grand. In retrospect, I don't think this is a good investment at all, considering inflation rates and stuff. But what my parents really meant by investment didn't have anything to do with money. That piano was an investment in their childrens' future. And if anything, having an incredibly valuable musical instrument in the house and practicing on it every day (okay, not really every day, but we were supposed to) really taught me a lot about the value of culture, about what's important. Our old TV that my parents just got rid of last year, was older than me. I was hardly allowed to watch it when I was growing up. But we had this fantastic piano that was my most important extracurricular activity for the vast majority of my childhood. And while I do have vague fond recollections of watching The Electric Company, music and discipline and culture last a lifetime.

It's funny what kinds of memories certain pieces of music trigger. Like, for example, I get especially emotional when I hear the nocturne that was the first Chopin my little brother learned when he was 8 or 9. And there's another one that both my sister and I were taught by our now-deceased piano teacher Mr Lee who used to hit his students with a stick if they hit wrong notes (he slipped on some ice a few winters ago and died instantly).