Welcome to Renate's Baton. This blog is mostly for and about my choir, The York Region Community Choir.

But, While I'm holding the baton, I'm in charge. So, if I want to talk about other parts of my life, I will. :)

The choir itself is a community and I'm discovering that we have a lot in common with one another besides our love of music and singing.

When I go off on a tangent, there is always a crowd coming along. Join us!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Too old for new tricks?

Hello All,

I just did my piano playing for the day.

I try to play for at least 10 or 15 minutes a day even though my lessons are over until September. I don’t want to forget everything over the summer. Today, I played Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, Go the Distance from Disney’s Hercules, and Time to Say Goodbye. It’s very satisfying to be able to play music like that, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say that I can play piano. I’m afraid it might be too late for me.

Piano Lessons
I started taking piano lessons when my daughter Victoria started, 3 years ago. Our piano teacher has a family plan that was too good not to take advantage of. My older daughter Soraya refused, so I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted to have piano lessons as a child, but there was no money, no room for a piano in the house, there were excuses. I did get recorder lessons, and later in school learned to play the clarinet.

Keyboard or Piano
At first, we used the choir’s keyboard to practise. I seem to always end up being the one to store and carry around the keyboard for the choir. So, it was a good arrangement. But, soon we wanted to have our own, and something with more than 66 keys. It was hard to decide to get an electronic keyboard over a ‘real’ piano. I did some research on the internet. Pros and cons were listed, and we ended up with a Yamaha DGX-230 Portable Grand. It has tons of features that we have no idea how to use. If you haven’t decided, here’s a good reason to get an electronic keyboard: when Victoria is playing her songs for the week, she often tries them out using the pan flute setting, or guitar, or several of the other gazillion different sounds the keyboard can make. Variety is good. She plays more.

Memory work
Victoria plays a piece a few times, and she’s got it memorized. She often plays from memory. Sometimes I have to memorize parts of a piece because I can’t look at the music and at my hands at the same time. If a section is really hard and I have to play it a hundred times before I get it, I end up memorizing it. But, I don’t think I’ve memorized a whole piece, and they’re all pretty short still. Now, when I see people play from memory, I’m impressed.

I used to think I was good at multi-tasking. I’m a mom. I can do laundry, cook supper, check homework and chew gum at the same time. But, the first time I had to use the pedal, I thought I might never be able to do it. It was hard enough doing something different with my right hand and my left hand, but adding my foot in at the same time, doing something else was frightening. It was hard, but I’m getting better at it. Sometimes, I’m pretty good at it. I used the pedal very nicely today, even adding it in where it’s not marked.

Brain fitness
Sometimes, when I’m learning a new piece, I feel like I must have smoke coming out of my ears. It’s that hard. My brain doesn’t seem to want to handle it all. That’s when I know I made the right decision to take up the piano in my 40s. Piano lessons challenge me in so many ways. There are regular theory tests, which I study for, and surprise quizzes which are scary, but I do pretty well on. And, there are scales and chords and arpeggios. I remember a great deal from high school, but there’s a lot of piano theory that I don’t know. Learning more about music helps me with conducting the choir.

Physical benefits
And, sometimes the muscles in my fingers hurt. I’m using my hands in a whole new way. Now, I can type much better. I have better control of my fingers. I often walk to and from my lessons, so that’s another way I benefit from them.

I’m glad I’m taking piano lessons. I do believe that you can teach an old dog new tricks. I love it when I can play a song that I like. But, I’ll never be a pianist.

Learning to conduct the choir has been very satisfying, and I continue to learn and improve all the time. I am really grateful to the choir for helping me grow in this way.

Yours in harmony,


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