It must have been when I was 5 or 6 that I was first introduced to the piano. My fingers were not yet strong enough to grasp the subtleties of forte or piano, nor were my hands able to span intervals beyond five keys. Nonetheless, those wedges of black and white ivory that bowed at my fingertips entranced me, and thus began my lifelong love affair with the piano – and with music.
I continued studying piano until I graduated from high school. It was perhaps the one thing that remained steady for me during a period of consistent change – moving from southern to northern California and back again; changing schools, friends, cities and addresses every couple of years. Yet, week in and week out, in spite of tests or homework (or the frequent spout of rebellion), there I would find myself, at the Yermakovs, sitting by the side of Marina, my devoted teacher, and warming up my fingers with scales.
After I stopped taking formal lessons, I continued to play on my own, going home every weekend when I was in college so I could squeeze in a few hours of play-time (though laundry and a home-cooked meal may also have factored in as reasons). Even when I moved across the country to New York for graduate school, I tracked down the school’s music library, where there were practice rooms open to all students, and carried printouts of Tchaikovsky pieces on my person at all times in the event that I felt a need to play.
That, for me, was where the value in playing piano lay. Whenever the pressure of school weighed me down, when the work before me seemed overwhelming, or when I just couldn’t seem to wrap my head around my situation, I could simply turn to those 88 keys and find not only solace and release but answers to all the questions that had me puzzled. Just as notes found themselves in melody, so too did problems find solutions, aimless frustration find direction, and answers to questions that bogged me down magically emerge. As long as I had music, life didn’t seem so hard.
It’s sometimes easy to forget that kids get stressed out, too. But the world can be a big and intimidating place, especially for the youngest and smallest of people! That is why I dedicate this issue of tbjkids to music: It can make a world of difference to a growing child – I would know!