I have a childhood memory of being at my grandparents' home and discovering a piano in one of the rooms, complete with a lesson book titled Beginning Piano for Adults. My grandmother had a new hobby; she wanted to be a creator of music rather than just an appreciator. As a kindergarten teacher she didn't need the skill for her work. Apparently, she was learning just because she wanted to learn. I never actually heard her play piano, but I remember being somewhat amazed that she would make that effort at her ‘ancient’ age.
Learning more piano for the sheer joy of learning. It's something I'm working on. The joy of playing. I’ve made the commitment to do this in part because of one of you, our newsletter subscribers. Thank you, C.A. Hurst.
It is not easy. I'm a classically trained pianist. Once upon a time, I practiced for hours every day. I memorized a piece and worked to perfect it. So when I started to play again after a multi-year hiatus, I tried to play classical pieces that I had memorized. I didn’t enjoy it. I couldn’t enjoy it.
When I persuade myself to play just to play, for the joy of music and improvement and learning, as my grandmother did, without any particular goal for achievement, it is different. An internal joy switch turns on, transforming the experience.
This requires a different approach. I'll learn to play a progression in all twelve keys I found on YouTube. I play by ear, which I never used to do. I track down transcriptions of favorite songs, and then start to learn those. I might play for five minutes a day. Sometimes it is ten or even fifteen. But it’s a goal with no goal. No performance on the horizon. I play because I like how it sounds. I like how the keys feel under my fingers. I like being able to make music.
The goal is to enjoy.
Perhaps that's why I loved interviewing Livingston Taylor. He's played with musicians like Jimmy Buffett, Joni Mitchell, and Fleetwood Mac, and has been on Billboard’s Top 100 three times, and Top 40 three times. He played during our interview and it was magical.
Ironically, my initial thought in wanting him for the podcast was that he talks about performing in his book, Stage Performance. He has some profound insights on performing, including, “The ability to forgive is very attractive. When an audience sees that you can forgive yourself, they make the assumption that you can forgive them too.”
You can listen to my full interview with Livingston here.
Separately, but importantly, I'm doing something for my birthday this week that I committed to do after interviewing Wharton professor Stew Friedman. I’m asking my children, “How would you like me to spend the rest of my productive life? What would you want me to be doing, and how would that make your life better?” Isn't that a great question! You may want to ask those you love the same question…
As always, thank you for being here!
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