Music and Me
What five-finger exercise is a piece of music written for the purpose of practicing on what instrument?
Sax Trombone Violin Piano
The Answer: The Piano
I didn’t know Chopin’s etudes are also designed to train the fingers. Etude opus 10 is his best set of exercises, according to my source. They also suggested that Fur Elise by Beethoven may have been written to promote piano dexterity. I played it, loved it, but never guessed it was about fingering, not Elise. Would you believe science has studied piano exercises? George A. Kochevitsky wrote a book about it, and it even includes his thoughts about Chopin and his etudes.
I started lessons in 3rd grade with Mrs. Cliffwell. I took lessons for 2 years until she retired. I don’t remember my 2nd teacher. I think it’s because I developed some bad habits like the girl in the picture. Her hands are flat, and her arms are slumped down.
Mrs. Frazier whipped me back into shape. She taught me to hold my fingers like claws, using my hand and arm like 1 long lever to control those fingers. You can’t play fast or complicated pieces with slumping hands. I blossomed under her teaching. I did district solo contests where judges rated my performances. I always got 1’s or 2’s. I also accompanied the middle school choir. That led to playing for a few vocal contest soloists. I loved Mrs. Frazier! Then she retired too!
Did you guess which 2 instruments I played in concert and in marching band? I played the clarinet and the alto saxophone. They’re the 2 instruments to the left of the trombone.
I started playing the clarinet in 4th grade, a year after I started piano lessons. A lot of kids struggled to learn their instrument and the notes. I had it easy. I only had to learn the clarinet.
It made clarinet easy and helped me to win 1st chair when we started competing for seats. I still remember my band teacher from elementary school. Mr. Trunk directed our first concert with all the instruments put together. It was a horrible version of something like MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB.
In middle school my band teacher was Miss Souder. She scared the bejesus out of me till the candy run-in. You fund band by doing things like selling candy bars. My dad wouldn’t let me sell so I had to go in and tell Miss Souder. OH MY! She was furious, and I burst into tears. She reined in her temper, and she soon became one of my all-time favorite teachers.
Miss Souder gave private lessons, and she was strict, but she always pushed you to do your best. She pushed me to go to district solo contests. I was first-chair through middle school because of piano training, my drive, and Miss Souder’s lessons. She pushed me to do an all-district band. I wasn’t first chair, but I was still in the first section.
Each spring Miss Souder gave away scholarships for Ball State’s music summer camp to one 8th grader, one 9th. I won in 9th grade, and it gave me a musical peek outside Northwest Ohio. I discovered I was good, but everyone else was better. I wasn’t 1st chair or even 1st section. I was third. It was a humbling experience, but I learned a lot, and I was determined to get better.
This is me in marching band. I picked up the alto saxophone because clarinets weren’t brass instruments. Mr. Trunk from elementary school was my band teacher again, and he wanted an all brass band like the Ohio State Marching Band. I played saxophone during marching season, from June till November. Then I switched back to clarinet for concert band.
In high school I found my last piano teacher, Mrs. Skinner, but I called her Anita. She played violin and piano. She was younger than all my other teachers. She had two little kids, and I wanted to be like her.
I kept doing contest with piano and clarinet, but never with saxophone, and I continued to do well with 1’s and 2’s, till my senior year. That’s when I met a boy.
Everything changed after that, I spent less time with my music and more time with the boy. That year I went to a piano solo contest. For the first time I wasn’t ready. I had to memorize the piece, and I didn’t spend enough time on it. I fell apart and forgot where I was. Somehow, I managed to finish.
The judge was a music professor from Bowling Green University. He gave me a 3, my worst score ever, but he gave me the kindest comment. He told me I had potential, but I needed to invest the time, 1-2 hours per instrument, per day.
I thought about what he said, and I left music behind. I didn’t want to invest the time to become a musician or a music teacher. After high school I quit the piano and clarinet, but I never stopped loving music. It’s the gift that keeps giving whenever I turn on the radio.
I became an elementary teacher and taught 2nd grade. One of the gifts I gave my students was the gift of music. I never played for them, but I was known for occasionally singing and dancing around the room, with whatever song crossed my mind. Tonight, in the words of Kiki Dee, I still have the music in me. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLQRW7J_D0U
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When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!