It’s January. Do you know where your chops are?

The good news: I still get to play the piano in public a few times a year.

The better news: In one month, I have the privilege of playing a concert with one of Wolf Trap’s most marvelous alumni, bass-baritone Alan Held.

The bad news: I have to find my chops again.

When I went from spending 8 hours a day at the piano keyboard to putting in 8+ hours/day at a desk, a colleague of mine (who had made a similar transition in her professional life) told me that I would never play the piano passably again. Use it or lose it.

The first few times I pieced together my keyboard technique it was daunting. Actually, it was terrifying. They say it’s like riding a bike – you never forget. Well, I certainly didn’t forget. My mind and my ear knew exactly what I was after. But my muscles rebelled.

But each time my musician alter-ego rose from the ashes, it got a little easier. By now it’s almost predictable. If I haven’t played seriously for months (in this case, since last September), it takes about a month to bounce back. The first week is disorienting, but by now I’ve been down this path often enough for the fog to be familiar. By the end of the second week, it feels like home again, and by the third week I almost feel like a musician.

I’ve even developed something of a routine. The first few days (and that’s where I am right now) is 75% Bach. A little odd for someone who plays lots of opera and song. But there’s something calming about counterpoint. (Don’t laugh. My preoccupation with Bach is one of the remaining vestiges of my high school math geekdom.) The Baroque style allows me to focus first on the fine motor skills before I have to dig into the heavier stuff. And counterpoint immediately puts me in the right mental state for the ultimate goal – listening to one melodic line while producing another.

Finding My Chops: Menu for Week 1

Bach: All the two- and three-part inventions, Well-Tempered Clavier Books 1 & 2, English and French suites, Partitas, the Goldberg variations (just the easier ones…) Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue, and the Italian concerto
Mozart or Beethoven: At least one sonata a day
Fauré or Chopin: Two nocturnes a day
Schumann: Bits and pieces of Papillons, Carnaval, Davidsbündlertänze, Fantasiestücke… the easy ones at first, the harder ones as I dare

Against my better judgment…

…my answers to the Meme of Four. Other bloggers’ lists are entertaining and surprising. Mine is breathtakingly normal. I post it not to astound, amaze, or entertain, but to strike a blow for the power of the ordinary:)

Four jobs you’ve had in your life: 1) music therapist; 2) pit pianist; 3) church organist; 4) teacher

Four movies you could watch over and over: I don’t think I’ve ever watched any movie more than once, except unwittingly. My memory is terrible, and I often don’t realize I’ve seen something before until I’m halfway through it.

Four places you’ve lived: 1) Elizabethtown; 2) East Haddam; 3) Hyattsville; 4) Vienna

Four TV shows you love to watch: OK, so I’ve only really watched two TV shows in the last year. And seeing them in print is pretty embarrassing. 1) Desperate Housewives 2) The Biggest Loser

Four places you’ve been on vacation: 1) Venice; 2) Yosemite; 3) Denver; 4) Vienna

Four blogs you visit daily: 1) ionarts; 2) Adaptistration; 3) The Artful Manager; 4) The Rest is Noise

Four of your favorite foods: 1) anything chocolate; 2) anything with seafood; 3) did I mention chocolate?; 4) anything I personally don’t have to cook

Four places you’d rather be: Geez, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be. I am officially terminally boring.

Back to Work Tomorrow!

Apologies to those who weren’t fortunate enough to get a midwinter break. Mine was worth its weight in gold. Now to find a way to bottle the serenity and dispense it next summer…

One Comment


My fingers are actually tingling, this post resonated so strongly with me! (I got my master’s degree in piano but now mostly sing. However, I am currently getting my fingers back in shape for an upcoming show). The “diet” sounds like a great one — if I could find time for just one or two of these a day, I would be in great shape!

I’m really enjoying the blog — thanks for writing it!

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