From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I started to learn to play the piano when I was 8 years old. I remember so clearly my dad saying, after my first lesson, that it would be no time until I could play a song. I proudly responded to him – I already can. In the little song book that the piano teacher game me the first two-note offering was called By the Lake, and I proudly played the song for my dad – two notes repeated four times – in all its glory.
I guess I can say now that my dad may have been exaggerating his sudden passion for the song and for my expert playing. The thing with learning to play the piano, as with learning to play any instrument, is that the sounds one makes are not always instantly song-like. Despite my commitment to By the Lake, it was years before anyone really wanted to be in the room with me while I was playing, although my dad never let me know that.
On the piano, songs start out very simple, the hands are often learned separately, and there are many wrong notes. Then after all this painstaking practice starts to add up, the hands begin to be played together, the notes become more complex, chords are added, and then we actually a song that, over time, someone could listen to and enjoy without earplugs. I have found this to be true about many things, that there is usually chaos before a big project just seems to come together to make beautiful music.
In those days of learning piano, I always started by playing each hand separately until it was more or less polished. So, my right hand could play a wicked melody all on its own and my fingers seemed to know their path. Then my left hand chorded and played its parts pretty masterfully in the bass clef. Then came that fateful moment when my teacher would say the two hands were ready to play together. And while both hands were well practiced on their own, the act of starting to play the two together set me back to earplugs almost immediately.
If I think about great changes, massive projects or just life, the same is true. I can be doing fantastically with my part of the project and other team members have their own mastery. We come together to move swiftly to the finish and inevitably our mash up takes us a few steps back or sounds pretty terrible at the start. We need to spend time together, figure each other out, figure out the notes and how they come together and learn from one another in order to have all the parts come together into a masterpiece.
I guess the thing to remember is that this part is a stop on the arc of any project, the chaos before the rousing finish, and the scrambling to find the notes before the perfect melody. A natural part of any kind of partnership, unless we want to hold back all progress and be content with where we are, is thinking beyond By the Lake and moving along the continuum of playing to Beethoven and his peeps. It is hard work and takes practice but in the end, there is something enjoyable to listen to, to be proud of and to move us to something better.
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