From the time I played my last church service on Christmas Day until last Saturday when I played for a funeral, I didn’t touch an organ keyboard. So I was understandably rusty — my fingers did not feel as though they were attached to my hands! and my feet seemed to have minds of their own. Today I played for chapel at Iolani School, and everything seemed back to normal. What a relief!
Obviously when I go on vacation I can’t practice my instrument, unlike some orchestral musicians who always have their instruments along with them, just to keep in shape. I remember talking once to violinist Darel Stark about a trip he and Georgine took to Italy — and he said he took his violin along to keep his fingers in optimal condition. For myself, I figured I can go about three weeks without touching an organ keyboard and then my fingers feel like Jell-O.
So it was to my surprise that a former student emailed me to ask for lessons again — and it’s been 10 years since I saw her last! I gave her a few technical exercises to try, and it seems she is exactly at the same place where she was ten years ago — surprisingly no worse.
I had another student who stopped lessons for eight years then returned — and he brought the same books I had assigned him when he was 12 years old. His was another example of music interrupted and having no ill effects.
My own mother was quite an accomplished pianist in her high school years and even won a piano in a competition. But then she chose medicine for a career and it was not until she retired at age 83 that she returned to music. And then with what a vengeance she returned! — taking both piano and harp lessons and practicing three hours a day. It was not long before she was back in musical shape and even made CDs and DVDs of her performances.
I’m guessing that playing music is like riding a bicycle — once you do it, you never forget it.