There have been a few times in the last four months when I've had an unexpected reminder of just how much I miss playing the piano. It's not that I've quit, of course, but running a household and taking care of a two-year-old and a new baby don't allow a person spare time for much of anything except a few minutes of knitting here and there in the evening. Of course, knitting is a quiet activity that can be done while young ones are sleeping, and practicing is definitely not a quiet activity.

I was pretty darn burnt out with school by the time I finished my degree. (To be perfectly honest, actually, I was burnt out with school a good two years before I finished, but I managed to stick with it to the end, and I'm glad I did.) I think, though, that the writing and academic-beaurocratic hoops one has to jump through were wearing me out more than the performance part of the DMA. Now that I'm done, it is a relief not to have deadlines and the constant pressure to please my professors hanging over my head. Even as a mature (ha!) adult, I have been a student eager to please, to the point where I have sometimes been afraid to assert my independence and my opinions. That's something that came up in my dissertation defense, as a matter of fact. My committee members, well-meaning and supportive, all of them, kept saying about my paper: "This is good, but I want to hear more of YOUR voice. What do YOU have to say?" And I kept saying, to my extreme internal frustration, "Okay, no problem," and nodding amiably. In the end, my revisions were good and I'm satisfied with what I turned in, even rather proud of it, though I'm quite sure no one will ever read it again or care a whit that I'm currently a bit of an expert on some obscure text settings of E.E. Cummings...

But that's not really my point. My point is that my life as a (shudder) housewife completely fills up my time and keeps my hands busy enough that most of the time I forget how much I like to play the piano. Yesterday and today there have been modest exceptions.

Yesterday, I went with a student of mine (she's in 4th grade) and her father to look at a restored baby grand they are thinking of buying to replace the small spinnet she currently has to practice on. They simply wanted me there for my opinion. Even though I am in no way qualified to appraise an instrument (that's a job for a technician), I can tell if it's a good instrument or not. My student played "Home on the Range" (the only piece she currently has committed to memory) about six times, and then I hacked through the A section of a Brahms Intermezzo (op. 118/2 in A major...every pianist has butchered this piece in his/her younger years, but I still think it's sublime and I pull it out for weddings and such.) The man selling the instrument said, rather patronizingly (though not unkindly), "You play beautifully." Right. I didn't tell him I just finished my DMA.

Today I got an email from the music dept's assistant director. It was a desperate plea for a pianist to accompany an audition recital for a candidate applying to fill a violin position. The audition is in a week, and the program includes, among other things, the first Schumann sonata. I've heard the piece, but never played it. I know it's hard, hard enough that it would be a stretch for anyone to learn it in a week's time, much less an out-of-practice full-time mother who would probably have to bring her squirmy children along to the performance because good babysitters are so hard to find on such short notice. I said no, obviously.

It's been a long winter. Lots of cold, lots of snow, lots of being cooped up inside with a bored toddler and needy baby. But I think the constant gloom nipping at my heels (once the relief and euphoria of actually finishing the doctorate wore off, that is) has had more to do with my own musical inactivity than the weather. I certainly don't miss the harried pressure of graduate school, but golly do I miss my comrades. I miss hanging around with musicians, even the nutty ones, especially the nutty ones to tell you the truth, I miss playing good music and even mediocre music. I miss collaborating. You might say I miss having conversations about something other than naps and poop and how light switches work (one of Daniel's favorite topics).

I know this won't last forever. Like a friend of mine, a fellow musician/mother, told me a couple of weeks ago, "It's only been three months since Anya was born." I guess I should learn to be patient, but it's really really really hard. I feel like my brain and my skills are atrophying. I hate that I say no to practically every opportunity that comes along, but right now I have to.


[Pam's blog] said…
Sounds like it's time to put together the family band! I suppose choosing the instruments will be tricky... How about Orff instruments? or those little pieces of fruit with beads in them that you shake? I'm joking, of course, but are there any instruments kiddies that little can play so that you can play along and have fun? or is that just wishful thinking? Or... what if you invited over some friends to sing and play songs -- maybe even on the guitar or some instrument that allows you to sit on the couch?? Would the kiddies be interested in listening? or is that too difficult?
[Pam's blog] said…
How about the auto harp? :-)
Suze said…
Heh, the auto harp. Good idea :)
Steph said…
I bet Daniel could really clean up with a can of dry beans.

Lacking words of wisdom, but sending you many good thoughts. I wish I could bring my flute over to your place and hack through some Bach sonatas or whatever. Except that I'm so out of shape it would be embarrassing.
Take deep breaths and remind yourself that they aren't young forever, and that this time will pass before you know it. I remember feeling like Jamethan was going to be a needy baby forever, then blinking and realizing he turned 10 when I wasn't looking!

I do agree, though, that introducing the kidlings to making music with Momma would be a good idea. You could start by playing kiddie songs, then work your way up to your favorites. Just a thought.

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