The Precious

I did do one thing during my week off.

It revolved around The Precious.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

I’ve written before about my new-found love of playing the piano. A friend from my church gave me her old piano, a 1984 Wurlitzer, last August. That piano opened a whole new world for me. I started taking lessons, and found that I have a surprising facility for music. More important, I discovered that I love making music.

The minute I sit down at the piano, the world drops away and it’s just me and the sounds I can draw out of those keys. I didn’t even know where middle C was when I began. But I’ve moved on rather quickly since then. I’m not sure why, but it’s like I’m learning a language that in some odd way I already know.

I don’t practice. I just play it. Learning a new piece of music is fascinating to me, like working a puzzle.

As grateful as I was to have the Wurlitzer — and I was very grateful indeed — I was dissatisfied with it almost from the first day. I don’t know the technical language to describe it, but there was no there, there in the tone. I could change the way I touched the keys and change what it did, but nothing I could do could pull real music out of it.

I don’t know how to explain it except to say that it was limited in what it would do and the limitations wouldn’t allow me to make the sounds I could hear. I heard music in my mind that I knew I could not ever get out of this piano.

I spent hours, trolling on-line web-sites, mooning like a lovestruck teenager over the pianos I saw there. I even went so far as to contact one of them and see if he’d take my Wurlitzer in trade. Shipping costs made that a bad deal for him, which I understood.

In fact, shipping costs made buying from him a bad deal for me, as well. It costs almost $1000 to ship a piano from the East coast to Oklahoma. That’s a lot of coin to stack on top of the cost of the piano itself.

During a lunch break at work a few weeks ago, I decided to check out a local piano dealer called Larsen Music. I wanted to check the prices on a new piano to get an idea of how much a used one should cost. I did not have any plans to buy a piano when I went into that store.

But the very nice salesmen told me I could play any piano that I wanted. That’s a little bit like a car salesman offering a test drive. There is nothing like the smooth specialness of a new car with that intoxicating new car smell. If they can get you in that baby, you’re halfway to sold by the car itself.

It was the same with these pianos. I tried three of them that were in my general price range. They all cost more than I planned to spend. A lot more. But each and every one of them put my Wurlitzer in the dirt. They were all wonderful, but as soon as I touched the keys on The Precious, it was swoon time. If buttered honey was a sound, it would be the sound of this piano. If the colors of a sunset were music, they would sound this way.

It had the voice that speaks the language of the kind of music I want to play.

However, it cost a lot of money.

And I don’t have a lot of money.

Fortunately, there was wiggle room in the price. It turns out that buying a piano really is a lot like buying a car. The piano, like the car, sells itself. Then, the process of working out the deal on the piano involves — like buying a car — a bit of bargaining.

I traded in the Wurlitzer and got quite a lot taken off the asking price in addition to that. The bottom line was that I could afford it. I went home with prices and photos for three pianos. But, the one I wanted was the Kawai. I called back the next day and asked for a couple of more discounts, then agreed to buy over the phone.

The reason? I found the piano I wanted at a price I could afford. I had also learned the answer to the question I had when I walked into the store: New pianos are a better deal than used ones, especially when you factor in the expense of shipping. I had been looking at thirty-year-old pianos that, with shipping, would have cost me about a thousand dollars less than I paid for this new one. That’s not a good deal.

My new piano has a 10-year warranty, a complimentary first tuning and Larsen’s offers a 100% trade-in if someday in the future I decide to buy a grand piano.

I paid for it when I bought it, but asked the store to keep it for me until session was over because I knew I wouldn’t have time to touch it, and that if it was sitting in my house and I couldn’t play it, I might stroke out. It rained here last week, which delayed delivery a day.

But last Wednesday, the delivery guys brought The Precious.

That may be part of why I didn’t get much done last week. All I know is that they weren’t out of the drive when I started playing it, and I didn’t stop until my hands got sore.

I love this piano. It is (in case you’re interested) a new Kawai K3. I recommend Larsen’s Music to any Okie who’s looking for a piano of their own. They are good people to do business with. I think the salesman enjoyed my pleasure in the piano almost as much as he enjoyed the sale. He told me, “I saw your face when you played the Kawai. I knew that was the one.”

I stopped my lessons for the past couple of months because there was no time. I’m starting again this Thursday and I’ve got so many things I want my teacher to go over with me, I don’t know if we can fit it into an hour.

I’ll never be a great musician. But I am already a fulfilled and happy one. I am going to ask around my church and see if I can find enough interested musicians of any level of competence to put together some sort of funky Southside Papist band. That would be great fun.

The moral of this story is simple: If there’s something you want to do, do it. Don’t let wiser heads tell you that you’re too old or that it’s impractical or wasteful silliness. Above all, don’t listen when they tell you to grow up. “Grow up,” used that way, is just a synonym for “stop living.”

That advice isn’t wise. It’s an exhortation to waste life. The greatest wisdom about life is to know it and live it as the gift that it is.

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  • Manny

    Hey that’s great. I guess that beats my $50 keyboard you have to plug in and can play preprogrammed songs…lol. That’s a great hobby. Maybe someday you can record something and post it. Would love to hear you play.

    • hamiltonr

      I’ll do that Manny, maybe after I get the piece I’m starting together. That will take a while, btw.

  • SisterCynthia

    So, you’ve found Your Voice. :) That’s how I feel about my (neglected) violin. I have felt it when testing violas, and Celtic harps, too. It’s that something in the touch, the tembre, the resonance, the everything…. something that you cannot ever really explain to someone who has not played an instrument long enough to experience it. But those who know that “click,” KNOW. Whether anyone else thinks your instrument is “the bee’s knees” or not is irrelevant. Brand and price, too. It is something I didn’t know existed until I played. But when you find your Voice, it is like finding home, or a part of yourself you didn’t knew existed. Congratulations! :D

  • pagansister

    Am so happy you found the new piano and that it “spoke” to you as you tried it out. I took piano as a child for 8 years, then stopped primarily because I hated doing the year end recitals. I didn’t and still don’t like being in front of a crowd doing anything. I was 13. I never did tell my Mom why I didn’t want to take lessons any more. If I had told her I probably could have gotten out of the recitals, but I didn’t think of that then. Sometimes I wish I had continued. Enjoy the beautiful instrument. I know you will. :-)

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    I love that you love playing the piano. I took lessons for years, but it never “took” that way. I adore piano music played well. But I know what you mean, about that place you go when you play. I go there when I draw or write fiction.

    • hamiltonr

      I think it’s all the same flow, no matter what you do.

  • FW Ken

    Someone once said that in heaven there will be music and silence.

    I tried the piano a couple of times in my life, but don’t have the manual dexterity for it (or violin, french horn, or baseball), so I ended up in choir. Now that’s past, but I still bellow out the hymns at Mass. Let them stare. ☺

    But it’s cool to take up piano now. My sister, who did play as a child, got a piano in her 50s, and plays for the fun of it. From that quote at the top, I’m thinking is on the approved list of hobbies. ☺☺

    • hamiltonr

      I think that music — and art — are both a form of prayer. Or at least they can be.

  • Mrshopey

    :) Pope Benedict sits at the piano and plays describing as you did, the world melting away! Congrats! I can play, in my head!

  • Ray Glennon

    Congratulations. And may you hear the voice of God and feel his pleasure in the music that you make.

    If you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend David Brooks’ column “The Art of Focus” from yesterday’s NY Times.
    I’m pretty sure you will appreciate it.

    And if you are interested, my comment on his op-ed was also posted. It is repeated below so you don’t need to search for it.
    Ray Glennon Comment
    “Whoever wrote the headline really understood what David Brooks was saying. The challenge is to “focus” on our passion and then to pursue that passion with “excellence” – by doing the right thing for the right reason.

    At a time in his life when he was distracted and uncertain about where he should focus his attention, the great 20th century spritual writer Fr. Henri Nouwen prayed, “Lord, show me where you want me to go and I will follow. But please be clear and unambiguous about it.” To discern God’s calling is to know “…your terrifying longing,” and to pursue that calling with passion and excellence “…is the experience that produces the joy.” May we all be open to hear our call and to follow it.”

  • peggy-o

    Kawai’s sound awesome good for you Rebecca. I just let go my old baby grand-was at my parent’s house and it wouldn’t fit or ship to my house. The value was all sentimental…my dad bought it years ago and painted it an awful antique brown-not good for resale. Whenever I played as a child he would come in and sit and listen what patience! My mom would put her Christmas villages on it for the holidays. Today I have a used upright and I play for both my father’s in heaven, for my own passion and the family at holidays. For good music I listen to Oscar Peterson or Lyle Mays but nothing beats making your own music.

    • hamiltonr

      It sounds like we are of the same heart Peggy.

  • Siobhan

    Rebecca, I also took up piano late in life, and was astounded to find a new passion in my 50s! It doesn’t come naturally for me, though; I have to work really hard at it and am not very good. But someday I will be :-). Congratulations!!

    • hamiltonr

      Just keep at it Siobhan. The journey is the reward.

  • hamiltonr

    You should have heard my husband when I called him and told him I’d just bought a new piano. He didn’t say much, but it was clear what he thought. He went …. (silence) …. then …. oooo-kaaaayyyyyyy.

    But the minute he plunked out a few notes on it himself, (he took lessons for five years as a kid and hated it) he went, WOW !!. The difference in the sound made it clear to him.

    As for me taking lessons, his only comment was a request that I stop playing it after he goes to bed at night. (The new Kawai has a deal where I can cut the sound way down, so that’s no longer an issue. )

    You’ve gotta remember who he married. I do things a lot crazier than take piano lessons. I’ve run for elected office, and I blog about politics and religion, as two for-instances. :-)