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Honorable Mention - "The Piano"

1999 Anne Horton Writing Award
Honorable Mention
"The Piano"
Kristin Dahl

It all began 14 years ago. What started as a plink, plink, plunk, has grown into a part of me that will exist forever. Wherever I go and whatever I do, no one can ever take away the connection that has grown between my piano and me.

From the day I was born, our home has had a piano in the living room. The thirty-five year old piano belongs to my mother who grew up taking lessons on it. Through the years, she has been very protective of it. The brass pedals shine against the maple wood that has been polished more than any other piece of furniture in our home. My twin sister and I were only allowed to touch the ivory keys softly and pounding them was out of the question. The medium stain on the piano blends with the oak woodwork as it stands tall against our off-white living room wall. Family pictures hang on the wall and to the side hangs an antique lamp with prisms dangling along the brass rim.

I remember the first time I climbed on the piano bench. My feet dangled a foot off the ground and my hands barely reached the keyboard cover as I began lifting it off the keys all by myself. It seemed so heavy and hard to push back into the piano. At eye level was a decorative brass ornament attached to the wooden shelf which held the music. The brass piano lamp on top of the piano seemed so far away. I knew I better not try to reach it for fear of falling right on top of the keys.

I was only four years old when my mother began giving me lessons. My beginning books were finger coded as my reading skills were not yet quite developed. Once I learned middle C and the ten keys that represent each of my fingers, I knew my life would be forever changed by the sounds coming from within the piano.

My first audience was my kindergarten class. During show and tell, I nervously played my very first solo entitled "From a Wigwam". It was the first time I played for my classmates, but not the last. As my junior high years began, I was challenged by the difficulty of the classical music I was playing including pieces from Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Rachmaninoff. Accompanying the school chorus during the past six years along with perfecting contest solos has given me determination, confidence, and joy. I am thankful that I had these opportunities, and they are now preparing me for piano auditions for college.

As the years have gone by, my love for the piano continues to grow. Playing the piano is more than a hobby to me. It's a relief from the everyday stresses that fill my life. I play the piano to relax and forget my problems. The only thing I think about is the music I am playing. I have always been shy, and it is hard for me to show my feelings and emotions. When I play the piano, it is as though my hands are my voice. I let the sound of the notes display my emotions. If I'm sad, the music I play is slower and softer. If I'm happy or excited, I play music that is fast and upbeat.

When I sit at the piano, I can feel the stress in my body drain out of me right through my fingertips. I sit at the piano for hours playing songs until they are just right. When I play, it is as though I am in a box just big enough for me, the piano, and my music. I am separated from the rest of the world as though there is no one within miles. I never smell the scent of the candles burning around me, or the aroma of my mom's home cooked meal. I never hear the extra noise from the family room television, my Mom's pots and pans clanging in the kitchen, or my sister's stereo blasting away upstairs. However, it always amazes me that I can hear the occasional sound from the piano foot pedal or the wobbly piano bench beginning to loosen. Outside distractions never seem to break my concentration.

As I now complete my college auditions on the piano, I reflect back on the hours and years of practicing that have prepared me for this moment. In many ways, I feel I have been preparing for this event all my life. I realize though that my college auditions are not an ending to something that began 14 years ago. They are the beginning of the next stage of my life.

I already have my very own piano waiting for me to someday give it a home. No matter where my home is, I know the piano will always be a part of it and a part of my life.