At the Steinway Store

I knew from an early age that I would never play an instrument because I can’t use my left hand properly. But that never stopped me from being curious about music and enjoying listening to it. One instrument I always liked was the piano.

My earliest memory of a piano was the toy piano I received for Christmas at the age of three. My mom taught me to play a tune like merry-go-round music. She had no formal training; she just picked it out on the keys. Another favorite memory was during kindergarten. On a rainy day, one of the teachers noticed me banging on the keys, listening to each one’s sound. She stood behind me, guiding my right hand as we played “Frere Jacques.” It seemed like magic. She also explained how the pedals at the bottom helped to change the sound of the notes. Here’s a better, more technical explanation:

I have always been short; I knew my feet would never reach them. But I could freely imagine performing with gusto at a concert hall–either solo or with an orchestra.

Here are the lyrics to “Frere Jacques” in French and English, from Wikipedia. I had almost forgotten them:

Frère Jacques, frère Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!
Din, dan, don. Din, dan, don.

The song is traditionally translated into English as:


Sheet music version

Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
Brother John, Brother John,
Morning bells are ringing! Morning bells are ringing!
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.

Later, when I was about eight or nine, my family and I visited other relatives out of state. At the time, my cousin had a piano in the living room. I looked at some of the music books, imagining what each of the markings meant. I asked her to play for me, and she did. If memory serves, it was a waltz. Everyone gathered to listen. Sadly, she gave it up a few years later.

Our former neighbors across the hall had a daughter who studied piano and was very talented. Sometimes we were lucky enough to hear her practice when she came home from school.

A favorite pastime at the mall when I was a kid was going into Kitts Music to admire and try out the organs–the kind that everyone could teach themselves to play. I would eventually get one for the Christmas, and I had great fun playing it and learning the popular songs, show tunes, Christmas carols, and hymns in the music books. My only trouble was that I was too slow and often couldn’t quite get the actual rhythm and tune. To their credit and endless patience, no one in my family ever complained or ran for earplugs.

That tendency to go into a music store and admire the instruments dies hard. It probably will never leave me. When my aunt and I were at the mall a couple of months ago doing errands and getting haircuts, I asked if I could go into the Steinway Store while she finished up. “Sure,” she said. “But just don’t buy one.” We both laughed; times have been difficult in this economy. I tried to interest her last year in a PBS documentary about making Steinways, but we chose another program. Off I went. The first thing I saw was a beautiful cherry wood grand piano with a carved filigreed music stand and intricate carvings on the sides. The keys were tied–only undone if you were an actual customer. I ran my fingers gently over the ivory keys, noticing how soft each was. I didn’t bother anyone there; I looked around at the photos of the many celebrities who use Steinways–including Lang Lang and Billy Joel. I also enjoyed listening to potential customers play for a bit, and then I slipped away and went to meet my aunt for lunch.

Today on “Classical Music Discoveries” podcast, I enjoyed the piano performances of Elizabeth Wolff, who is also a teacher.

I have actually trained all my life on other types of keyboards–typewriters and computers. I’m not sure if the words that come out are music to anyone reading them, but I try.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. standard piano keys
    Mar 13, 2016 @ 17:25:58

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your efforts
    and I will be waiting for your further post thank you once again.


  2. williams allegro 88-key digital piano
    Mar 16, 2016 @ 08:44:14

    Excellent article. I am dealing with many of these issues as well..


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