By Jonathan Rufino '18
“Gooseberry, Huckleberry.” My carefree six-year-old voice joins in with my piano teacher’s as we review basic rhythm via these silly words, and I slowly pick out the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” I like my new piano teacher. She’s patient, she smiles at me, and she laughs at all of my jokes. But sometimes, I wonder about her. Why did she buy such a fuzzy, comfortable carpet if she never lay down in it? I didn’t like piano much—sitting upright at a chair pressing keys, I had decided, was boring—but oh, the carpet! I stretched myself out on it, pressing my head against the beige tufts of fluff, closing my eyes, and letting the sun’s warmth from the floor-to-ceiling windows roll over me like a blanket for my newfound musty-smelling bed.
“Shift!” It’s been four years, and I still can’t seem to wrap my head around just how I’m supposed to change my hand position in that ridiculous “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” song. I only have five fingers, Ms. Naomi. How could I possibly reach that sixth note? At ten years old, I’m still unappreciative of piano. Perhaps that’s because, short of learning to play with both hands at once, I’ve made depressingly little progress since I began the instrument. The piano studio, though, continues to fascinate me. Each Saturday, the stalwart carpet welcomes me, but it’s no longer the focus of my attention. A new sofa, pink and flashy, occupies the right half of the room, designated for the older members of the studio who shuttle their grandchildren to and from their weekly piano lessons. Often, my recalcitrant friends and I sneak up onto it, fighting for the right to snuggle into the corner where the seat meets the arm, fiddling with its already fraying edges, and poking the tightly packed cushions of down just to contemplate the consequent indentation.
At thirteen years old, tearing through a simple scale in a Kuhlau Sonata, I’m suddenly overcome with an urge to quit piano. My old studio playmates, with whom I used to roll in the carpet and sneak onto the sofa, stop arriving to their lessons. I’m suddenly one of three teenage students that my teacher has left. While Victor, the oldest of those three, has his lesson, I sit just beside my teacher’s newly installed bookshelf, contemplating whether or not I should stick with the instrument I’ve grown to despise. Looking down the rows upon rows of neatly sorted volumes of music, small brightly colored busts of composers serving as bookends, and miniature framed quotes from Dr. Schinichi Suzuki, I’m suddenly aware of how little I know of my piano teacher. From Japan, she hasn’t seen her family in years. She has a house, I assume, since she has a car, but I’ve never seen her outside of her small studio. It might come as a surprise that, for seven years, I envisioned my teacher living at the studio. But to me, it wasn’t such a ridiculous idea. My teacher spends more time in this room than anywhere else, so is it so wrong to say it’s her home? I see more than books now. I see a life devoted to a passion, and, glancing around the room at the carpet and the sofa, I realize to just what extent, hate the instrument as I may, this studio has become my home as well.
I don’t quit piano.
“Control!” Seventeen-year-old me zips through a c-sharp minor scale in a Reinhold Impromptu. I no longer think about each note, but rather I hear the song in my head, trusting my fingers to do the rest. The glossy black sheen of the Boston baby grand stretches out in front of me. Piano has, over the past four years, become an inimitable part of my life. This piano specifically, this Boston, has been with me for eleven years now. It’s where I searched for the notes to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, where I struggled to shift my hands in Go Tell Aunt Rhody, where I questioned the significance of that Kuhlau Sonata, and where I sit today, contemplating how central to my life this instrument has become. And when I look around at that that joyous carpet, that forbidden sofa, that symbolic bookshelf, and that sleek baby grand, I’m incredibly grateful that this place, this second home, somehow kept me coming back.