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I sat down on the bench, apprehensive. I hadn’t touched the ivory keys in almost eight years. Instead, I had actively avoided them, treasuring instead the strings of my violin. In debates I claimed that it was harder to play my instrument, belittling the plunking keys. Yet now I found myself seeking the power of the piano again, wanting music that was its own partner.
I began by sounding out the melody with my right hand. As the silky notes glided through the silence, I was reminded of my violin.
This is where I belong. I am a violinist, a purveyor of sweet melodies. This was where I took tentative steps away from the strict notes and rhythms I had adhered to as a young pianist, as I discovered that music comes from the emotions spiraling from the thin black lines. On the violin, I can close my eyes, enthralled by the music, exploring to match the compositions racing through my head. I have spent Friday nights improvising with pianists, cellists, guitarists — whomever I can find. I have been a street musician, spreading the joy that I already give myself. The first time I wandered downtown, I gathered a motley group of an accordionist and a cellist. We unpacked in an alley between two quaint cafes, away from questioning eyes, amidst the pink daisies of early spring. As we emerged onto the sidewalk, a chilling wind raced against our dancing fingers, countering the warmth of the afternoon sun settling on our skin. And we played. Passersby — a wrinkled man, a dancing little girl, a gangly preteen — stopped and stared, occasionally leaving spare change in exchange for the smiles that sprouted on their faces. As our improvisations managed to cut into their everyday lives — lives that had been absorbed in their separate paths — I found a pastime in the streets. The purity of a melody slicing through the air simply cannot be underestimated.
Yet as the notes swelled throughout the room, I heard the force of the piano. There was no violin. Instead, I switched to the lower line of the music. The notes of the left hand outlined a beat that matched the sound of the drums.
A year ago, a friend gave me his old drumsticks. I immediately raced to the old drum set in the student center to start banging away. Fortunately, no one was around to hear me miss beats and drop my sticks. I was playing as a violinist, not a drummer, without resolving the two instruments. My initial attempts occurred at 6:00 AM to hide behind the solitude of the sleeping campus. Eventually, my confidence, if not my skill, progressed to allow early arrivals to hear my offbeat screeches.
Yet I heard the smoothness between the piano’s consistent beat. There were no drums. Together, my two hands created the perfect harmonies of the barbershop quartet I had started a year ago, born from a friendship formed in a theory class. We began by wandering around the school at lunchtime, singing our separate ways, until the next bell rang to shoo us off to class.
But here the music will not end. As I began to deviate from the sheet music in front of me, I knew that I could delight in my right hand as long as my left hand stayed steady. The piano was only a remix, a compilation, of what I had done before. In time, my playing of the piano came into its own, becoming a springboard in itself to bigger and better things.
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