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  • Writer's pictureKarl Walker-Finch

.....and the chord was struck

21 years ago, I nearly made a huge mistake in attempting to give up what has become one of my greatest passions.

Aged 13, I had just passed my grade 2 classical piano exam and I told Chris, my piano teacher, that I wasn’t enjoying it, I didn’t like the pressure of the exams, the music was boring and I was going to stop playing.

Mortified, Chris asked me if it was just that I wasn’t playing the right kind of music.

[teenage boy shrugs his shoulders and mutters something inaudible in response]

He proceeded to play a couple of things that really didn’t invoke anything in me more than extreme indifference. Then he played a blues piece called Jamming with Jools and it blew my mind. This was the greatest sound I’d ever heard come out of a piano, a piece from the grade 5 jazz exam book it turned out. There’s no way I could ever play that let alone just after I’d passed my grade 2, “look at that bit with those semi-quavers in, my fingers can’t move that fast”.

Of course I could, and I did, in less than a year. Through the love of the music, I’d leapt from a grade 2 dropout to grade 5 pianist and you know what, it was far easier than trudging through grades 1 and 2.

I stopped doing the exams at grade 5 because the jazz exams stopped at grade 5 and I had no interest in playing anything else. I have no regrets about this. From that point, I played what I loved playing, when I wanted to play it and I got better and as I did so, I loved playing more and more.

Since that spark ignited the fire inside me I’ve loved playing piano. It’s a time I can reach my state of flow, an escape from the rest of the world and the best way for me to come down after a stressful day. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t play piano but it’s some place worse than I am now for sure.

I didn’t need structured lessons or a set of goals to become a better piano player. I simply loved what I did and fed the passion.

I owe my piano teacher a huge debt of gratitude. If I’d have made that resolution a year earlier with that other piano teach Mr E, I very much doubt that I’d still be playing today. I’ve been racking my trying to remember Chris’s full name in some thought of tracking him down and thanking him, but it’s gone.

I've also long since lost my grade 5 jazz exam book, but I've never forgotten how to play Jamming with Jools and the improv section Chris and I wrote together all them years ago. I've had many passions since then, but piano was my first love and one which I'll never be without.

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