EDUCATION

Column: My opinion of the old piano began to change during my senior year of high school

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Photo by Ryan Ward

Ryan Ward
Oxford Stories
rcward@go.olemiss.edu

For years, it sat mostly quiet in our den. I ran past it on my way outside to play football, baseball, basketball or soccer. Although my mom occasionally played hymns or Dan Fogelberg songs on it, I was not interested in an old piano. However, my opinion of the old piano began to change during my senior year of high school.

I played sports my entire childhood through my freshman year of college, but I knew that sports had to end at some point. I realized during my senior year of high school I needed to develop a new hobby I could enjoy for the rest of my life. That is when I began to learn to play piano. At the time, I did not have time to take piano lessons because of schoolwork and sports, so I began to teach myself how to play.

One of my first inspirations was watching the TV show “Lost.” The composer for the show, Michael Giacchino, arranged his musical pieces in a way I had never heard before, and the music made the show more special. That only furthered my interest in learning to play piano.

Eventually, my love for that style of music led me to want to learn classical music. I began listening and learning songs, such as Claude Debussy’s “Claire de Lune,” Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” and Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédie No.1.”

To this day, I still am influenced by this style of classical music. For instance, Ramin Djawadi, one of the world’s most famous current composers, has drawn me back into classical music through his music in TV shows like “Game of Thrones,” “Person of Interest,” and “Westworld.”

Only months into teaching myself how to play piano, I challenged myself and volunteered to play our class song, “Let It Be” by the Beatles, at our senior class day. I practiced for hours every day on our piano at home. And with the help of other classmates who sang the well-known Beatles classic, I played the song flawlessly in front of roughly 1,500 people, most of whom were very surprised to learn I could play the piano.

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Photo by Ryan Ward

Classic rock has always been my favorite genre of music. So when I had the urge to learn some classic rock hits, I turned to YouTube to find tutorial videos since I was not able to read music. YouTube helped me learn classics such as “Desperado” by the Eagles, “Imagine” by John Lennon, and “Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles.

One summer about three years ago, I decided to take piano lessons to improve my hand positioning. I learned new techniques that allowed me to play faster, thus making it easier to play more difficult pieces.

My freshman year at East Central Community College, I decided to take a music appreciation class. This class taught me a lot about the rhythmic structure of music. It was fascinating to see the similarities and differences when comparing the rhythm of a 1970s disco song to a 1990s hip-hop song.

For the past several years, I have tried to create some of my own compositions and songs. While, for the most part, I have only played my pieces for family members and close friends, I have dreamed of composing a series of pieces for a TV show or movie. I have made a point to record myself playing different original pieces. I currently have roughly 800 videos of myself playing different chord progressions and patterns.

About a year ago, I wanted to expand my horizons and learn another instrument, so I turned to the acoustic guitar. The guitar has not come as naturally to me as piano did, but I have found that the best way to improve is to practice changing chords slowly at first and to not get frustrated because there will be growing pains. However, I have seen some progress and have learned to play some easy classic rock songs such as “Mother” by Pink Floyd, “The Best of My Love” by the Eagles, and “Love Song” by Elton John.

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Photo by Ryan Ward

In order to continue to improve at both piano and guitar, I have tried  to practice every day. Practice does not necessarily have to be playing any particular songs, but playing chords at different tempos helps to not become rusty. Practice is also easier when you have constant access to an instrument.

Luckily, I have a piano at my parents’ house and a keyboard at my condo in Oxford; and it is always nice that I can take my guitar wherever I want to. For me, playing piano or guitar serves as an escape from the chaos of everyday life. When I am playing music, time seems to fly by because I genuinely enjoy playing; learning new music will interest me for the rest of my life.

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