You'll hear very few people say "I sure am glad I quit piano lessons when I was young."
Starting from age 7, I took piano lessons for about 3 years. When I was 10, I switched to a different teacher. The music he chose for me was more demanding. When I was 10 years old, I just wasn't ready to put much extra effort into the piano when I had more important pursuits, like baseball, bicycles, and skateboards. So, I quit piano lessons.
If my parents had forced me to take lessons for another couple years, I may have eventually embraced the challenge of playing more difficult music. I might even be writing this blog as a concert or jazz pianist. 20/20 hindsight. All I can do now is plunk out a voice part…maybe two voice parts if they're in rhythmic unison. If nothing else, learning to read music at an early age gave me a head start when I joined band in 6th grade as a trombonist. (Why trombone? I wanted to play drums or trumpet, but we already had plenty of those. I was a tall boy. The band director looked at me, said "you have long arms," and so trombone it was.)
One of my goals this year is to learn to play piano. There are two main reasons I want to do this: I want to enhance my abilities to perform my church job, and I want to make myself more flexible as a performer.
My job at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation requires me to be proficient on an instrument, but it doesn't specify piano. When I provide music for services, I play the guitar. For choir, we have a paid accompanist, and we have a couple pianists in the congregation who also play for services. I don't need to play the piano at NWUUC, but learning the instrument will make me better at my job. It will be nice to have the flexibility to play hymns on either guitar or piano. Eventually, I would like to be able to play for the choir in a pinch if our paid accompanist has an emergency.
I would also like to be able to play jazz piano. First of all, it just looks like fun. From a purely mercenary point of view, it'll make me more attractive to potential clients. When most clients think of guitar, they seem to picture either folky strumming or screaming rock lead guitar. Even though I have demo recordings on my website, it takes some effort to convince some clients that what I can do is sit down with a guitar and play melodies, chords, and bass lines for a couple hours without singing a note. Once I reach a certain level of proficiency, I'm positive that I'll open myself up to a wider assortment of gigs.
This Thursday, I'll be going to my first piano lesson in 35 years. I believe I've found a teacher who is going to be a good match for my goals. He appears to be 2 parts jazz and 1 part classical. Just like the guitar, this will take some time, but I'm looking forward to the challenge.
- Tom Godfrey
- Atlanta, GA, United States
- When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.