Saturday, June 11, 2011

The tale of 2 pianos

It began with an innocent question to a student in my class about her mom. Her matter-of-fact toned reply caused the meaning of what she was saying to take a few seconds longer then it should have to register. But when it did, my heart broke, and my resolve to get to know her was made.

For Sarah had lost her mom, a year and a half earlier, at the tender age of 10, to pneumonia.

The process of developing trust with students is slow - built over weeks and months through smiles, eye contact, side hugs, and eventually, little conversation morsels. It's not like I can take her out to coffee and sit down for 4 hours and call it good - instead, it's mini-coffee like breaks throughout the year that slowly, someday, lead to a real relationship.

As the school year progressed, I could see that music sparked something within Sarah that could be seen clearly in her twinkling eyes. She worked hard in my group piano class, tryed out and was awarded solo parts in my choir, and took more then one road-trip with her dad to California to go to special acting camps.

So while that story was unfolding all school year, a mom in our same town was continuing to work through the grief of her 15 year old son who died 14 years earlier. Eric loved music and had a special talent for all forms of music, despite his deformed heart and missing lung and sickly life.

For years I have secretly wanted to upgrade my piano. It is the original piano my parents bought for me when I began piano, in a Chicago suburb, at the age of 5. My brother, David Klinkenberg and I have spent hundreds of hours practicing music around this piano. It sits in my studio now, a bit beat up, but still sounds majestic to my ears. God Had whispered to me many times when I thought about purchasing a new piano that He had one for me (and it would even be my favorite brand - Kawai) - but that I just had to wait.

Late last week the phone rang and I met Wanda, a mom who has walked the unthinkable by losing her only child through heart disease. Within 3 minutes, I knew she wanted (or thought she wanted) to give this piano away and that it belonged to her son that had died 14 years earlier. She literally wrestled back and forth with her decision to give it up and decided that it would be best if she just took lessons and used the piano...we kept talking, more her then me, but I quickly moved into counselor role as I grieved with her about her son and encouraged her to take her time in deciding. We hung up.

5 minutes later, the phone rang. It was Wanda with an announcment. She simply said, "I talked to my husband about you and we have decided to give you the piano. You are the one we have been waiting for."

A studio level, amazing quality, nearly $11,500 Kawai - and I am the one she has waited for.

So, who is the one my piano was meant for? I decided to offer it to my 30 students I teach group piano to each week. Their task - write me an essay that convinces me that you are the one who should get my childhood piano. 6 beautiful essays came in of students inspired to keep learning piano after they discovered a deep love for piano and music from taking my class all year.

But the one who stood out the most was from the quiet girl whose eyes twinkled when she talked of being in theater, singing, and music - a young girl who lost her mom way to young.