Tickling The Ivories

My STEP Signature Project was to spend the 2018-2019 school year learning how to play the piano. I am no musician, but I wanted to explore music as an outlet and potential hobby while building a new skill. I attended weekly lessons at Singleton Piano and Fitness Studio working on learning piano theory, keyboard familiarization, sight reading, and memorization. Towards the end of the project we even started looking at improvisation and jazz!

Music Book

100 classical pieces. How many can I memorize??? 🤔

I am so happy I took on this STEP project. I am a very competitive and driven person. I want to succeed even when I don’t know what exactly it is I’m trying to accomplish. So a lot of the choices I’ve made were focused on succeeding as a professional in a competitive field. When I initially formulated ideas for a potential project I concentrated on my field and trying to do something that would develop me as a professional. However, some conversations with my STEP faculty advisor convinced me to look for something that would develop me as person instead, not just a professional. With further introspection I found that I was focusing to much on maintaining my course down my chosen path. Everything I was doing seemed like a simple check off the list to work towards a career. This project gave me the opportunity to explore something new that had nothing to do with my major, internships, or my future career. It was just something I was curious about and wanted to learn. I needed that break in the monotony so I could step back from being totally immersed in my major and see myself as a whole person. While working on the project I discovered a love for music and started on a journey of improvement that I will continue for the rest of my life because it’s something I want to do, not something I have to do.

One of the biggest takeaways from this experience is my new relationship with my piano teacher, Lynn Singleton. Ms. Singleton is a wonderful person and teacher who helped me through my first steps on the piano. She made learning feel fun and stress-free while constantly encouraging me to improve. Without Ms. Singleton’s influence, this project could have easily turned into a chore. Instead, lessons became something to look forward to, and practice was a way to escape from the rest of the world for a little while. Ms. Singleton made the piano a gift and I can’t thank her enough.

Singleton Piano Studio

Singleton Piano Studio. 3327 N High St, Columbus, OH 43202. Shameless plug. 🤣

Along with my lessons with Ms. Singleton came my personal practice sessions. I knew that I wouldn’t improve the way I wanted to without putting in some effort of my own. My goal was to learn enough to continue mastering the piano on my own throughout the rest of my life. The piano, like any other instrument, requires a lot of practice and experience before you can just sit down and play. I had to work hard if I wanted to accomplish that “sit and play” ability in two semesters.

I made sure to set aside practice time and acquired an 88-key keyboard that I set up in my room so that there was no excuse not to play. At first, I was worried that practice would become another chore, and it would have been if I continued to try and practice an hour a day during my scheduled practice time. I quickly realized that this strategy wouldn’t work. I was so busy with school, work, and extracurricular activities that finding an uninterrupted hour of free time became almost impossible. Even my scheduled practice time would inevitably become filled with emergencies and events and a million other things that I needed to do. This isn’t what I wanted. Piano was becoming stressful and learning frustrating. So I switched tactics. I began to practice when I could for however long I could. Often this meant 5 or 10 minutes at a random part of the day.

Piano Keyboard

My keyboard. We’ve been through a lot. 🙏

Soon, piano became a way to relax and distance myself from my constant string of responsibilities. If I got overwhelmed and needed a break I could just sit on the bench and focus on nothing but playing for a few minutes. The music had no strings attached. How well I played didn’t affect my future or my ability to succeed. It was something I could do whenever I wanted to because I wanted to. I found that soon I was taking piano breaks 6 or 7 times a day at least. That meant I was practicing between 30 minutes to an hour every day without even noticing it. For the first time, practice was not a chore. It just happened as naturally as breathing (not to say that I’m any good yet).

Ms. Singleton’s attitude toward my learning together with my “do what you can” practice style let starting my piano journey be a fun and stress-free experience in the midst of a high-paced, stressful time in my professional development. I learned the importance of stepping back from all the craziness and centering myself by doing something I enjoy. The music wasn’t a competition. It wasn’t a check box on the list of “how to complete my major”. It was just nice and relaxing. I needed this project to show me that there are things in life worth exploring outside of career and competition. I am so glad I decided to do this and that STEP helped make it possible.

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