A sabbatical of sorts
Spring is such an optimistic time of year, as colorful flowers burst into bloom all around us.
This spring in particular we are all ripe for a change of scenery, for some new beginnings following the past year’s awful pandemic. It’s partly the season’s rising of the sap that has me itching to do something creative myself this spring.
Regular Beacon readers know that our cover stories often profile local residents who have followed their passions — or discovered new ones — later in life.
You may remember reading about our recent Celebrations of the Arts — amateur art competitions for people over 50 that have both recognized and helped encourage painters, sculptors and poets throughout our readership area.
Our hope was to draw out those who may have stepped away from a childhood talent or passion in the interests of making a living. Or to entice older adults who had never tried their hand at art or poetry to give it a whirl and see what they’re capable of.
We knew we were onto something when we received more than 900 entries in our first Celebration of the Arts. I also realized that I was in good company, right there with many of our readers, eager for an opportunity to rekindle a passion from my past.
Of course, writing (and editing) are among my passions, and I have been joyously engaged in them at the Beacon for 32 years.
But going back to my earliest school days, playing the piano and composing short musical pieces were my chief hobbies. Well, maybe not my earliest school days. It took a few years of rather tedious lessons (and forced practice) before I was able to play the music that really brought me pleasure.
After that, it was hard to stop me. My parents went from imploring me to practice to wondering when they’d have a moment’s peace.
Stop I did, however, once I got to college or shortly thereafter. Life and its many requirements for survival moved me into other fields where I had a better chance of making a living.
Still, whenever possible, I would get myself to a recital or concert, or listen to records and CDs to enjoy the pieces I most relished.
Once in a while, I would sit down at our electric piano and fake my way through some of my favorite pieces, feeling I couldn’t really commit to the practicing it would take to play them well once again.
And then, almost exactly four years ago, I learned of a local group of now-older adults who for decades had been meeting every summer for something they called “piano camp.” In addition, they would meet periodically through the year to play piano for each other and have lunch at a member’s home.
I pulled the old “press pass” trick and asked to visit their piano camp in Baltimore that summer as a member of the media. From that experience, I wrote a Beacon cover story.
You probably know what happened next. I joined the group, I started attending piano camp, and next thing you know, I’m asking my wife if we can buy a baby grand.
I now practice the piano almost every day (a little), and feel I am almost back to the level I had reached when I stopped playing. I have also rediscovered my original compositions from high school, and started tooling around with some new themes.
Which brings me to this column. I have decided I owe myself a brief sabbatical of sorts: seven weeks to devote myself wholeheartedly to music and composition. I have no particular end goals in mind. I just want to see where it takes me and what it feels like.
Fortunately, we have such a wonderful staff at the Beacon that I don’t expect you will even notice my absence. Except for this column, that is. You will be hearing from our managing editor, Margaret Foster, and from a special guest columnist in our June and July issues.
As you are driving around with your car windows open this spring, if you happen to hear some tinkling ivories on the wind, I hope they remind you of me.
See you in a couple of months!