Those lessons, in a quiet bungalow on the edge of town, were on a Friday night straight after school, and really where I didn’t want to be. Oranges and Lemons wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
I was put there after the joy of getting what I wanted for Christmas – a Casio keyboard – and I was captivated by the possibilities of the keys and buttons and the modern, electronic energy that could come from this instrument. I was thinking more Depeche Mode than nursery rhymes.
But, my dad was a musical purist and wanted the theory embedded in me, so an old battered piano was bought so I could embark on some serious learning. Hours were spent on scales and when I dropped a note, he would tap the ceiling of his office below with a rolling pin for me to correct myself.
My dad was a piper who deeply admired his own father, a professional violin player who also worked as a painter and decorator. The story of grandad’s violin having the lines of the strings embedded into the neck because he had repeated his scales so often was told with pride.
But the approach didn’t work for me and the Friday nights in the bungalow quietly wound up. But I always felt there was unfinished business and those hard fought lessons in theory gave me a knowledge that simmered away for years.
When a friend moved a beautiful clavinova into his house, my desire to play unlocked again. I went back to lessons and it was a delight when the teacher asked me what I wanted to play. Nina Simone! Jazz! We laughed and she said she loved teaching adults because there was freedom to choose your road. I pretty much skipped out the door.
Lockdown stopped lessons but I continued. I found happiness in focussing on a handful of notes as the world outside went into turmoil. I am far, far from perfect but that’s not a bother. The joy of learning music is there – and I play on.