Learning to play the piano at an early age, and having exposure to other musical instruments like the harmonica, organ, recorder, ukelele, and xylophone, instilled in me an eventual appreciation of the power of music, and its ability to define milestones and influence moods.
Eventual was, of course, a long time in coming. Because at the tender age of seven, I was given a two-second choice to aye or nay the purchase of a $1,000+ piano (the big, practically immovable wood ones with four feet, keyboard dust cover, three foot-operated pedals, and eight or nine octaves of full-sized faux ivory keys). That’s less time than one is given to frame the correct answer in the form of a question on Jeopardy!. On a whim, I said yes, not realizing what I was letting myself in for: the practising of scales and symphonies for the next seven years.
For the first few years, piano was passable entertainment. Even if my wrists waggled as I played, and pop songs were my preferred “standard” over the works of 17th century composers. Then as the grade levels got higher, so did the difficulty levels. I squeaked through the Grade 7 exam, and, to quote the immortal Captain Picard, declared that “The line must be drawn here! This far, and no further.”
So it was with a great sense of relief that I began senior high; piano was now out of my life. But I soon became acquainted with its successor: the digital keyboard. When I first tried to play it sans sheet music, to accompany my favourite pre-recorded music, I finally understood the need to practise scales. The necessity of listening to the rhythms, emotion and story. I embraced the missing dimension to my appreciation of music: singing. I taught myself to listen to my voice as uncritically as possible, and use it as I would another musical instrument.
I realized the other importance of music in my life. Music cheers me up when I’m sad. It makes me feel even better when I’m glad. It motivates me when I work: a fast uptempo beat helps me design quickly, while a slower one helps me write more contemplatively.
My musical tastes have taken quite a journey through the years, too. Classical crossover has been added to the mix. I count Canadian composers Frank Mills, Hagood Hardy and singers Joani Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot and Stone Bolt as favourites. Michael Jackson, Josh Groban, Il Divo, Bond, Kenny Loggins, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Brightman, Queen, Survivor, Paul Mauriat, Barry Manilow, Chuck Mangione and Vivaldi are there too; my musical appreciation will not be confined to a single decade, or a single musical genre. And it’s good to know that I have the ability to accompany these favourites, too. On the keyboard, and with the vocal chords.