Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mrs. Lyon and the first song

Growing up we had a glossy black baby grand piano. We used it to practice on with no idea how lovely the instrument really was. I remember dragging my heels all the way to the black leather bench to run scales and practice songs for the required 30 minutes. For seven years I did this between three and five times a week, then put a check mark on the practice sheet Mrs. Lyon sent home. Oh, who am I kidding? I filled out my practice sheet on the day of my lesson because if I brought it back I would get to pick one of the bright jolly ranchers from her basket of rewards.
Two things stand out about Mrs. Lyon even now. She always had incredible jewelery. Pins, necklaces, earrings, the whole sparkly nine yards. And second, she was always cheerful and warm. This is amazing enough for anyone, but when you consider she had to sit through hours of unmotivated, marginally talented kids like me, the word saint comes to mind.
For years I sat and plunked out the tunes she'd assigned, my skill growing more slowly than my stature.
Then one day, things changed.
I'd had a really rotten day and hadn't had anyone to tell about it. I sat down at Mrs. Lyon's piano, and opened my book to the assigned piece. I think it was called Angel's Voices. It really was beautiful. It had lots of runs from the deep, throaty notes all the way to the silvery ones. And it was simple enough that I could play it through without hitting a wrong note and jarring myself out of the piece. I'd enjoyed plunking it out all week.
Well, on that bad day I sat in front of the keys, and with nowhere else to pour my angst, I let it run down my arms and into the music. It was like the song felt it with me. Though I hadn't voiced my frustrations and hurts, they'd been heard. It felt good. Liberating.
When I finished, I straightened and looked to my teacher for evaluation. Mrs. Lyon sat there for a moment in complete silence. I wasn't sure what that meant and started to get a little nervous. Then, she said, "Kim, that was beautiful."
It wasn't even the words, it was the way she said them. She was a very encouraging instructor, but this time it was different. She was choked up. As if she was able to feel what I'd poured out in song.
That was the first day I realized that music, that art of any kind, can truly convey emotion. That it can tell others our hearts. And that sometimes it can reach deeper than words themselves.
After that, she lent me a piece of music called Exodus. It is drenched in power and emotion, and with my limited talents and boundless unshared emotions, I did all I could to guide it to its potential. Mrs. Lyon gave me that sheet music after my lesson and I still have it. Still wring it out of the keys on the rare occasions that I have access to a piano.
I love music. I rarely do anything without listening to it, including writing. Heck, especially writing. It helps bridge the gap between my head and my heart and my soul.
Anyway, it was a beautiful memory to chance upon while I readied for bed. It made me remember how grateful I am for music, for the way God knew that words could never be enough to express his beauty or even our own meager hearts. I'm grateful for the mad crazy talent he gave composers, and the mad crazy patience he gave piano teachers like Mrs. Lyon.
My Jesus, I am stirred to you by song and I can't wait to listen to it by your side.  All my love.

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