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Ellen: Play

The piece below, which originally appeared at the Open Studio Groton blog, was written by my brilliantly creative business partner, Ellen Olson-Brown. Enjoy!


music noteIt’s Monday evening, and I’m writing this post from Indian Hill Music in Littleton, Mass., where my sons take music lessons. I love it here.

I’ve settled into a deep leather couch in the lobby, a bright, wood-beamed room ringed by practice rooms. From one room on my right, I can faintly hear the piano pieces my son has been working on all week. On my left, someone plucks the low strings of a standing bass, and from other rooms piano scales and the reedy hum of a saxophone stream out, slightly muffled. I’m so happy in this space, soaking in a sound soup that’s a lot like the pleasant cacophony of an orchestra tuning up.

The woman in the voice lesson directly behind me is working on a short passage, and after 12, 13, 14 tries, she hits the high note. It’s no longer a strained squeak, but a warm brilliant color arcing through the air and into my heart. I want to applaud. Or cry. Or something.

Actually, I know exactly what that something is. I want to go home and play the piano.

Every time I go to Indian Hill, I feel the itch to make music. I want to take cello lessons and bang on a drumset and sing really loud.

I was a band dork as an adolescent. I played in the concert band, the stage band, the pit orchestra, and, yes, the marching band. I had neither the natural talent nor the discipline for excellence, but I loved making music, on my own in a tiny little practice room or within a wall of sound high-stepping across a football field. Music was a joyful part of my daily life.

And then it wasn’t. Grad school and work and raising a family and adult responsibilities took up time and space. The love of making music never went away. Just the making part.

There’s a piano at home, a piano I walk by many times each day, a piano I sit at 5 days a week with my son while he practices.

A piano I dust more often than play.

But when I go home tonight, before I fire up the grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner, before I open my laptop, maybe even before I take off my coat, I’m making a beeline for that piano. I’ve been chiseling away at Mozart’s Sonata in C major for 3 years now, and while I’m not quite at the point that Benjamin Zander of the Boston Philarmonic calls “one buttock playing” (oh, that video is a goody, embedded below, I think you should watch it!), playing the first, nearly mastered page of that piece gives me such joy.

Whenever I play, I walk away from the piano calmer, happier, more energized, thinking, “Why don’t I do that every single day?”

Is there a source of potential joy that you’re walking by every day? A set of paints? A box of yarn? Woodworking tools? Notebooks and pens? Clay? A cookbook and exotic spices? That guitar you haven’t touched in years? Your sewing machine? The Garage Band app on your new iPad?

Maybe tonight, before you start chopping onions, before you open the mail, you could play a little. Or play a lot.

But don’t forget to play.

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