This profession isn't what I expected


Playing organ at my cousin's wedding in 1985. It never dawned on me how long I've been playing both the piano and the organ professionally until this past week. A dear cousin posted photos of her wedding on Facebook in celebration of her 30th wedding anniversary.  She included a photo of me at the organ. My boy-friend-turned-husband was the soloist during the candle lighting. Ahh..such sweet memories. However, I would LOVE to forget the 80's hair style.

Fast forward to June, 2015. My niece shared some pics of me playing piano for her wedding this past summer. Thank goodness hair styles have changed!

As I did the math, I gulped. Really, 30 years of playing piano and organ for weddings, church services, funerals and numerous other occasions! I don't feel that old, but...

Want to know some secrets I've kept for 30 years?

1) After graduating with a master's in piano performance and pedagogy, I was sick and tired of playing the piano and rarely practiced.

Playing piano at my niece's wedding in 2015.

2) Because I felt I should, I always listened to the classical radio station while attending grad school. Soon after the diploma was received, I turned the knob to KBCO. I became a HUGE fan of the alternative rock station in Boulder and also of Colorado Public Radio and NPR News.

3) When I began teaching, I seriously considered a totally different career because I despised the work hours of 3:00pm and beyond.

4) I never thought I was good enough at the piano or the organ.

5) Because of my doubts in my self and my skills, I figured my level of teaching would never be good enough either.

6) Chord charts and lead sheets were a foreign language to me. I had a good deal of catching up to do when our church began a praise team. This was extremely embarrassing for me.

7) Although I made long-time friends and mentors when I first joined the local music teachers association, my membership took its toll as I agreed to organize a few too many events. I suffered severe burn out and abandoned the monthly meetings.

The gal with the 80's hair at the organ represents the "me" that assumed she must do everything that she was formally trained and expected to do. But, deep down inside she was panicking because she didn't know if she really wanted to do it or if she was good enough to do it.

Whoa! Isn't a profession in which you've attained a substantial degree mean that it should be a fulfilling career and that everything should fall into place as expected? The secrets I've just shared are pretty bleak and yet here I am, posting weekly blogs about teaching piano. What changed?

Everything changed and here are some more secrets

Besides the hair style changing, (again, thank goodness!) my mostly gloomy assumptions about this profession have changed significantly over 30 years. Relationships, events and experiences have carved a career path into directions I never expected.

As a blogger, there are now few secrets in my professional life so I won’t go into detail about how things have panned out since 1985, but I’ll share a few tidbits that might be of interest.

1) Now, I struggle to find enough practice time and wish I could practice more! Between the church position and my online lessons with Bradley Sowash and everything else, it’s an ongoing battle for bench time.

2) My default radio stations are still KBCO and NPR but, I swoon over anything by Brahms and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and many other classical selections.


3) Monday through Thursday, my teaching hours begin around 6:00am and finish around 7:00pm with some breaks in between. Thanks to adult students and home-schooled students my days are full and I’ve adjusted to the 3:00-7:00pm shift.

4) I still experience doubts about my abilities and am a recovering perfectionist. My organ skills led me to a wonderful job for a congregation that I cherish. And, thanks to the weekly accompanying at choir, I feel I am an accomplished sight reader–never thought I’d see the day.

5) I make a good living as a teacher because I’m a classically trained pianist with a passion for creativity and partially because things have not always come easy to me. I understand how to break things down to make them simple for others and it seems this has made me an effective teacher.

6) Improvising from a lead sheet is so much fun now!  It's very important to me that my students are capable of this skill as well. I deeply regret missing opportunities and encouragement from past teachers to improvise and compose. If I could do it all over again, I’d love to be a bass guitar player in a band and be a song writer. My partnership with Bradley Sowash and our camp 88 Creative Keys is perhaps due to this passion and the gap in my tutelage.

7) Taking a break from the established teacher organizations caused me to branch out on my own and discover and make new opportunities.  Wi-Fi, blogs, social media, technology and of course, the iPad(!), continue to play a major role in building new relationships. Collaboration is now essential to my well-being.

I’m tremendously grateful that I’ve been able to work with so many wonderful colleagues and friends. I made a list of all these special people I've met over 30 years but decided not to include it. I didn't want to leave anyone out. If you're reading this, you're on the list. :-)

This profession isn't what I expected at all. There’s 30 years of my secrets, now tell me yours.


PS One more thing I NEVER expected: someone creating a lovely graphic featuring a recent quote. Thank you, Swan Kiezebrink, for such a generous gesture!