Instead of a car, my parents bought me a piano when I was 16 years old. They replaced my black Kimball baby grand with a mahogany 5-foot, 10-inch Schimmel. On the day it was delivered from Ellis Piano, my mother came home from work early to see my surprise when my dad and I returned from my high school. The joy of my first day with that piano lingered through preparing for college auditions, being surrounded by singers of Christmas carols, and drafting undergraduate compositions. I look forward to playing it every day when I have my own house to put it in.
I think I was in college the last time I visited Ellis Piano. Maybe it was a warm-up concert for my senior recital. Maybe it was my purchase of the score for Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87, music that still influences me and that I share with my students.
On Friday, I saw a piano store while on my way to an errand. On the way back, I drove a block past it before turning around. “When was the last time I visited a piano store? Over 12 years? Almost 15?” I thought as I parked.
I entered Jacobs Music in Ephrata and had a wonderful chat with the store manager. It turns out the school where I teach has rented pianos from there during the Christmas season and for special events. The store periodically features Steinway grands from the large Philadelphia inventory: to my surprise, my stop on Friday meant I could play one of Van Cliburn‘s pianos.
A worship song, a Cuban miniature, a couple of Burning Bush Variations, a free improvisation: these I played. And I remembered a feeling I might have lost in the past 12 or 15 years: sometimes playing a piano is just for fun. Not having a piano in my home has meant that playing is almost always a deliberate decision to go to a practice studio to focus on preparing for a project. I enjoy the projects and the repertoire, but it is not the same as having a nice piano around to play whenever and whatever I might wish. (I have a keyboard at home and a keyboard in my office.) The blank walls and full bookshelves of other people’s scores do not welcome me as the painting and blue carpet in my parents’ former living room or the smile and greeting of Mr. Ellis, founder of Ellis Piano. I am grateful Jacobs Music drew me back to the fun, and now that I remember, perhaps I can tap into it again.