Monday, April 28, 2008

Piano blues

BuffaloBloviator Publishing newsroom. Click for full resolution.
The author's desk at left; the publisher's desk is at right.

A clammy day! Cold rain, plus I have an old house and can't close this one window in my upstairs "office." (I put the word in quotes because the room is such a mess.) On top of all that, when I brought in the paper at 5:45 a.m., Bishop Kmiec's picture was on the front page. It is bad luck to see a picture of our bishop, especially when you haven't had your first cup of coffee.

There is one solution to this morning chill and that is to start playing the piano again. This will be the week I pick it back up.

Our German piano tuner Mr. Hatzenbuehler tuning the Welte Mignon at Big Blue.

I am actually a very good pianist when I work at it. I gave a recital a few years ago and played Beethoven's Op. 109 and the Alban Berg Sonata. But I fell off the piano wagon last fall. Number one, I met Leonard Pennario and decided to do the book, so I ran away to California for a few months, and I didn't have a piano there. (I did have a hot tub. You can't have everything.) And number two, my longtime piano teacher, Stephen Manes, left town. His wife died a couple of years ago, and he got back in touch with his high-school sweetheart, and they got married. We were all surprised and delighted for him. The whole affair was written up in Oprah magazine. I believe it was the December issue.

The only trouble was that Stephen's new wife, Marta, lives in Los Angeles, so now Stephen lives there too. So I have no teacher. I am a runaway train. I am a ship without a rudder. I am an overused metaphor. The worst thing is, I don't want another teacher. Stephen was my professor back when I was a student at UB. He began teaching me again nine years ago, when I entered the first Van Cliburn Amateur Competition as a way to get away from a bad boyfriend. It wasn't easy to call Stephen after all that time and ask him to teach me again. I was afraid he would remember what a loser student I had been at UB, cutting classes and not practicing. Finally I had to tell myself, "Mary, you have to call him. It's not as if he's going to call you."

Well, he was nice and took me back. And I got very good, thanks to him. Taking piano lessons as a grown-up is the best. It is so much more fun than studying when you're a kid. Once during one of our big Buffalo snowstorms I even violated the driving ban so I could get to my lesson. Because I had been snowed in all by myself for a week, I was very good that day. Stephen said, "What a difference a snowstorm makes."

How am I supposed to switch to anyone else?

Maybe I can get Leonard to coach me. That has crossed my mind. But I don't know how I would ever ask him and besides, he lives in California too. It is so ironic. I have so many great pianists in my life I am tripping over them. But I have no one to teach me.

Well, as "The Joy of Cooking" says, "Stand facing the stove."

Today's resolution is, "Sit facing the piano."


george honduras said...

good luck with your playing mary. i wish i could play. it seems so relaxing!

Derek J. Punaro said...

I've played piano since 5th grade, but on and off in the past 10 years or so. It's like that old hammer in my toolbox. I know that even if I don't use it for awhile and it gets a little rust built up on it, a little oil and sandpaper and some elbow grease will make it good as new.

BuffaloBloviator said...


I need some of that oil you're using. Mine never seems to work.

BuffaloBloviator said...


I've heard you play. Don't sell yourself short. Besides, why would you want to be relaxed?

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