I Should’ve Studied Piano Harder

When I was 6, and my parents built a beautiful colonial on a rural corner at the bottom of my paternal grandfather’s property, a green rectangle of field in Southwestern Pennsylvania that sloped down to the road. We were living at the time in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, in a neighborhood that had plenty of kids and close access to our elementary school. It was also a time when it was okay to open the front door of your house and kick your kids to the curb for the afternoon, calling them home only when it got dark and dinner was ready.

While the house was being built, we piled into the station wagon and  traveled out every weekend to look into the big construction site, initially a hole ringed by cornfields, later traipsing through the wooden framing, then watching as the windows with their stickers were installed, scraping those stickers off, watching the movers load in our furniture and getting to pick my own wallpaper, (probably my first design assignment). I chose an extravagant flourish of blue birds on branches. Even then I had a yen for birding. A quick search on the internet yielded this BlueBirdsimage which wasn’t too far from it, I think. And forgive the dank recesses of my memory if I’ve mistakenly given my six-year-old self an important design decision such as this. My mother might have waited until I was 10 to charge me with choosing the wall covering for my bedroom.

Aside from launching my design career (and ending it, I might add), the other thing my young brain fixated on was the notion that I would learn to play the piano. Now with a larger house and a convenient family room just off the kitchen, my parents quickly provided me the means to do that; I’ve talked a bit about that in another blog so I won’t bore you here again.

What I really want to tell you is that if you are young enough to take up the piano you should. I am currently searching for an accompanist or two to support our classes and our fall production of Side Show, and finding one that isn’t already engaged is harder than finding a good electoral candidate. Sorry, too soon, isn’t it?

At any rate, I want to assure you it isn’t for lack of trying. I have a list of about 25 good solid accompanists who come endorsed by colleagues I respect and whose contact info resides in my magical computer rolodex. They are all working. I have had good friends who are revered musical directors try to help. One invited me to a special group on FB for keyboard artists in LA. Who knew such magical nether worlds existed?

I finally worked up my courage yesterday, or my desperation worked my courage up to post the job announcement both to the carefully curated list of accompanists recommended by two musicians whom I have worked with on several projects. The responses from my outreach prompted the responses below:

I’m on a cruise ship until November! Sorry!

I’ve moved to the NY area so I’m not available. Sorry!

I’ve moved to Sheffield, England. Sorry!

I’m in NYC now and not available! Sorry!

I’m MDing a show in Milwaukee. (this after a brief tease indicating interest) – you know who you are and I love you in spite of yourself….I mean myself)

The immediacy of their responses was cheering until I realized they were really telling me NO! by geographic location. Don’t get me wrong. They were doing it really nicely. I love accompanists, who are the true service branch of musical theatre. They are critical to the success of a rehearsal process. A good accompanist is definitely an asset to the process. And I can’t blame them for growing their skills and following their hearts to more advanced assignments, leaving town and leaving me with my ongoing search. So the recommendations of the elders for young accompanists coming up is gold. (Hint, Hint)

PianoAll of these signs indicate to me that long ago, in the bucolic recesses of the Pennsylvania countryside, I should have practiced more. Instead of choosing wallpaper for my bedroom, I should have been down there pounding the ivories. If I had, I could be in New York or even England now, taunting some poor, desperate production manager in Los Angeles.

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