They all left when I sat down at the piano

DURING 30 years of marriage many things have changed. Other things never seem to change. My wife goes through time periods when she thinks she must ``improve me.'' It always occurs about this time of year. Schools, colleges, and little theater groups are presenting their annual programs, and my wife thinks I need more appreciation for the cultural things of life, particularly music.

Anyone listening to her would go away with the impression that my winter days are spent either in the back room of a local pool hall or watching televised sports.

She never stops to realize my musical education began very early in life. In Sunday school nursery as we sang, ``I'm a Little Sunbeam,'' it was wonderful the way the other kids looked at me and moved as far away as they could get, giving me plenty of room.

A well-meaning aunt gave me permission to play her piano during the times she was shopping. I was only in elementary school at the time. Teaching myself on this piano brought forth the intense urge to have a piano of my own. I begged my parents for months to buy me a piano, but to no avail.

At last my parents and I visited in the aunt's home one Sunday afternoon. It was the opportunity long awaited. While the adults tried to talk, I played and played! I performed for them all of the music I had composed for myself, and then I produced sounds and inspired music of which I had not considered myself capable.

My father's only comment afterward was, ``I'll burn our house down before we will have a piano.'' Up until then, no one had realized how much he disliked the piano as a solo instrument. You can see, however, how even then my musical talent was drawing attention.

During my junior high school days, a number of incidents arose demonstrating the power of my developing musical abilities. A family friend (who lived in California and far enough away) sent me a violin. It was as if heaven had opened for me. From the library, I secured the history of great violinists and violinmakers.

Of course, my violin was not a Strad-ivarius, but only a copy. However, mine did have a unique crack across its face. This did not detract from its lovely tone -- providing the listener ignored the rather steady coarse buzzing that accompanied its sounds.

In spite of my father's remonstrance that the family budget could not stand it, my mother secured a teacher for me. She had decided any child showing as much musical enthusiasm as her son could not be all bad. After two years of lessons I was able to play ``The Evening Star,'' ``God Bless America,'' and ``Silent Night.'' All of these were played only in first position, and in addition, I had learned a little bit about chords and pizzicato.

When I practiced at home, my wonderful family cooperated fully. They all left the house to attend a movie in order not to disturb my concentration. The family dog was even tied outside. His howling still disturbed my bow arm, but then art does demand sacrifices.

In my freshman year of high school, filled with confidence, I joined the orchestra. The director was so impressed with my self-confidence that he placed me in the first violin section.

During the second practice, he approached me to help with a problem. Fourth violins were very weak, and he had need of a strong player like me to support them. Of course, I agreed. Although I was placed far back in the orchestra, I found it reassuring to be of help even if no one could see or possibly hear me well enough to understand the valuable service I was performing.

It was only a short time before the director was so impressed with my enthusiasm he encouraged me to take up the tuba and join the marching band.

What consideration he showed for my tuba playing. He even had me practicing in a sound-proof room so others would not disturb me.

Marching with the band was great! My oompah, oompah blasted out as my talent exploded into music. During football season, it was difficult to march with the band during half times. Placing the tuba over football pads was difficult. My band director sympathized, ``It is a bad break that the team needs you so badly.'' I realized it did throw the band symmetry off when one person was out of band uniform.

In the early part of the season membership on the swim team claimed my efforts; when that was completed, I found the pep band and swing band seasons were also over. Music education, I feel, was poorly organized in that school.

Years have passed and they have proposed a puzzle. How could I have been so musically talented in school when tests have ascertained my hearing cannot tell the difference between middle C and A?

It must have been great talent and youthful confidence that made the difference. Ed Shearer

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