Starting Over

My son flubbed another school band audition, even though he played well in the practice room just before. Nerves. Before bedtime, I told him the story of why I quit playing the piano:

The last time I performed on the piano was a lovely spring day in April 1988. Fifty or so music professors, music majors, and assorted music lovers gathered in the small, old chapel at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, where I was a freshman majoring in English Literature and Communication Studies.

Having played piano since the age of five, I continued lessons in college to keep music in my life. I’d enjoyed a companionable relationship with my home piano teacher who watched me grow up under her tutelage. I didn’t jive with this music professor, however; I was Grieg and Chopin (romantics) and she was Bach (mathematics); I was pop and she was do re mi.

Since I played well enough for a non-major, she put me in the spring recital playing, you guessed it, a Bach piece. I worked through my initial disdain, eventually moved the music into my heart, and the afternoon of the recital I played it perfectly.

In the practice rooms. Not in recital.

The nerves of playing for a room of professionals and professionals-to-be broke me down. I lost my place and then my mind. My roommate, an organ major, ran my sheet music to me; she sat on the bench and held her finger to my place in the piece. I never regained my composure.

That was the end of that.

At the time I operated as a fully-entrenched perfectionist and I wouldn’t do something I couldn’t do perfectly. Clearly, my failure indicated that I should not be a musician (despite my years of devotion and joy), so I let it go. I poured myself into classes and friends and moved on. Occasionally I dabbled with a song or two, just for fun. Until enough time  passed and knowledge eroded that it wasn’t fun. I tried giving my younger son lessons until he decided he’d rather play on his own.

I let go of something I loved because I caved under pressure. It makes me sad.

Long ago my mom told me that she wouldn’t be surprised to someday find a grand piano in my home but no furniture, that art meant more to me than practicality. Accurate. We’ve hauled my upright piano up and down the state of California—from San Diego to Ventura and back, then to NorCal. All the while it has sat against a wall, collecting dust, beautiful…and sadly, unconsciously, a symbol of my failure.

My son plays it more than I do. He can’t read piano music; he plays by ear. For his sake, I’m glad we still have it. Last night, I shared my experience to encourage him to keep going. Not that his pursuit of music was ever in doubt, but I wanted him to know that I regret having given it up. That a botched audition or performance doesn’t define you. That he can be stronger in spirit than I was, and music will take him farther than it took me.

With the house all to myself today, maybe this recovering perfectionist will toodle around on the piano… And how interesting that I found this piece to bring me back to my love!


Cover photo credit: Image by PublicDomainArchive from Pixabay

En Plein Site

I am so in awe of people who paint (and sing and sculpt and create!) and people who invest in developing their creative gifts. Like my friend Laurie. The very thought of volunteering to paint school play backdrops makes me shudder but it led her to a passionate pursuit. Please welcome Laurie!

Create Challenge Guest Post #4 – Laurie Heath

Though I have long admired the artistic world of painters and artists, I took a circuitous path to painting. My first degree was in Special Education, my second in Interior Design and, although these are creative fields, something was always missing. I first realized my love for painting when I volunteered to paint three 10’ x 30’ canvas backdrops for our son’s fifth grade class play.

Since then I have painted off and on…sometimes off more than on. When I left the field of interior design, I took a painting class with Pam Glover, a Plein Air painter in Orinda, California. I learned the basics from her and have continued to take workshops from other painters. I stopped painting for about five years with the down turn of the economy and started painting again in just the last year.

Painting is a spiritual endeavor for me, an expression of my love of the outdoors and an attempt to capture through my eyes the light and beauty of God’s creation. I find the outdoors to be invigorating and capturing nature with its colors and light quality challenging. Some days are better than others, and some days I leave feeling like, “Why am I painting?” It seems to be part of the process for me.

Like many painters, my moods, the weather, time constraints and my dog can and do distract me from the creative process. The blank white canvas can be daunting as well – but I continue because I love it. There is something about seeing the colors, mixing them together, which excites me. I seem to cycle through favorite colors and painters which provide inspiration.LHeath boat

This painting I did In October 2008 after hearing a sermon by Rev. Jim Rueb. The sermon message was regarding the down turn of the economy. Jim said something to the effect, “We are all in this boat together.”

The following Wednesday, I went Plein Air painting to Port Costa, and I spotted an old row boat under a tree with yellow leaves about the hull. I painted it very quickly, and thought, Yes, we are all in this boat together… The name of the painting is Le Bateau of Faith.

LHeath bio

Laurie Heath lives and paints in Orinda, California. Her inspirations come from nature, color, and master painters, specifically the French Impressionists and California Landscape Painters. Having spent her childhood on a Nevada cattle ranch, she continues to enjoy the outdoors as a skier and hiker. She has shown her work with the Glover Group and Preserve Lamorinda Open Space. See more of her paintings on her Tumblr site.