The Glorious Mess…

The Glorious Mess…

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I’m often asked what got me started with piano, and here’s the true story of the seminal moment, and ensuing spark…

All Roads Lead to Rome…

It all starts with my Nana LeConti. Born in Southern Italy (Castelvetere in Val Fortore), she immigrated to the US in 1918. She was a great cook and loved her glass of wine. We all loved her famous home-made macaroni “pizza”. When it was time to eat, you’d hear her say “Manyamo” (dialect for “mangiamo” – “let’s eat”). When you saw Nana (usually around the holidays), she’d squeeze your cheeks saying “Sucha cute-a little face!”. Ouch. I’m sure Nana didn’t realize it, but it kinda hurt. Anyway, Nana lived in a small house in Watertown (located just outside Boston) and had a habit of, shall we say “collecting stuff”. I suspect it was because she came from a large family with little money.  These days, there would be some long-named medical diagnosis proclaiming this a ‘sickness’, but my Nana was as sweet as could be – even if she saved everything she ever touched…

One of my earliest memories is a visit to her house when I was 3 years old. Mom and I had come by for a visit. When I walked through the front door, two things greeted me instantly: the amazing smell of her home-made pizza; and great piles of stuff everywhere! Knick-knacks, collectibles, books, toys, cracker jack boxes – anything and everything you could imagine was in this entry room. I remember thinking: “I’ve never been in a house like this before”. There was a single narrow path which wound through and connected the living room to the kitchen on the far side where Nana was busy cooking. It was a jungle in there, with only one little passageway to navigate. Stuff was stacked so high I couldn’t see what lurked on the other side. This created the feeling I was walking through a treacherous canyon (think of your first visit to New York City). The stairs, the walls, the floor – everything was bespectacled with stuff – AWESOME STUFF! I must go explore…

The Glorious Mess…

My three-year old mind was amazed. I experienced Nana’s “glorious mess” as a great adventure – setting off to see what hidden treasures I could find. I remember sneaking under and around a couple piles so I could reach the remotest part of the room – the Fireplace. I was sure no one else in the world could have made that trek. Hestia  – the Greek Goddess of the Hearth –  would have crowned me ruler of Olympus!  It was then I came across the most amazing treasure – a little toy piano (you know, the kind Schroeder plays in “Snoopy” – except this one was a ‘vertical’ not a ‘grand’). Knowing no one could see me, I hit one of the clunky little keys. A sound! I hit another key – a DIFFERENT Sound!!! Whoa!!!! You mean, I hit these black & white things and it makes a sound? I was amazed. I could control sound just by moving my little fingers. That was it. Hook, line, sinker. Pure Awesomeness…

A life in Black & White

I admit I didn’t miraculously turn into the next Mozart. I didn’t begin wowing audiences with flawless performances of Chopin and Rachmaninov. No, the Greek Gods on Olympus didn’t instantly confer on me magical, mystical powers. In fact, it would be another 6 years before I started playing piano (around age 9). But there was something special about this early experience which I will never forget. That little toy piano had made a profound impression on my feverish little brain and planted the seed for where I am today.  From a little toy piano, to a life which completely revolves around black & white keys. Nana, thanks for your crazy ways. I’m so thankful for you – and that little toy piano by the fireplace.

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