MAY 6, 2014
piano keys 4 inches_edited-1I am a dropout from the senior citizens piano lessons class. I didn’t exactly drop out. I was dropped out. Not for my inability to learn how to play the piano, but for my ability to play piano, rather poorly I might say, in a style not compatible with what the class was going to be taught.

Being set adrift, I set out to follow leads on how and where I could find someone willing to build on the significantly limited keyboard abilities of an eighty-year-old woman.

It may not surprise you that there were no takers. Even my piano tuner, who can play piano-bar and blues style, was not willing to show me how he does it. Muttered something about not teaching anymore, too much tuning business. Yeah. Sure. The group piano teacher who ousted me from the learners group tried to convince a local music store teacher to take me on. Nothing. He wouldn’t return my phone calls. She probably told him that I was eighty years old and could play chords loudly while singing “Trouble in Mind I’m Blue.”

I stopped by the piano class one day, asked the ladies how they were doing. Fine, they said. I asked if they had a name for their group when they took their show on the road. No, they said. I suggested “The Tinkling Grannies.” They did not consider it as hilarious as I had hoped. So I bade them farewell and moved on.

Not one to give up easily, I pressed on.

Improving my piano skills (I use the term “skills” loosely) was my New Year’s resolution. Each year I make a resolution to learn something new or to improve on something I already can do. Through the years, I have had varying levels of success with my resolutions, ranging from significantly improving my knowledge of plants, to significantly failing at Tai Chi. I will say in my behalf that I bought the book and struck a couple of poses now and then before the year rushed to an end. But I digress.

My daughter Elaine, after listening to my whining about music lessons, reminded me about a system called Play Piano Today that might be just what I was looking for. Yes, I exclaimed! I saw that guy on public television one time.practicing4inches

I immediately sat down at my laptop, Googled Play Piano Today and voila! There it was. I put sixty dollars on my Visa card, figuring that would be just about the refund I would get on the month of piano lessons for old people that I had paid for before being dropped out.

I could hardly wait, and meanwhile, I was given a password by the kind folks at Play Piano Today so I could begin lessons on line before the DVDs and graphically illustrated book arrived. I began at once, with my laptop on a stool beside the piano, pounding away at chords and singing along at the top of my lungs, as was suggested by the invisible man attached to the hands on the keyboard in the video.

After two days, the video refused to play and my illustrated training aids were not scheduled to arrive for another three days, so I went to the website and sent a message to Play Piano Today telling them that my free interim lessons had disappeared. Surprise. Surprise. I got an answer the next day asking if I had tried the password again.

I answered as follows:

          “Thank you for your reply. Yes. I got the password information you gave me, logged on, and worked with it for a couple of days – up to the point where my show stopper was ‘Home on the Range.’ Then the video stopped working. I was promised at least a week of lessons while anxiously awaiting my DVDs.  But my free lessons could not be accessed. I re-connected, entered the password, said a couple of words that I would rather not repeat and tried everything again a few times, expecting different results. Then, I gave up. My email from the U.S. Postal Service said that the package had been shipped by Priority Mail, so I spent the weekend talking with my CPA, cooking for visitors, etc., hoping that my piano lessons would arrive on Monday. They DID!!! I am now happy and ready to continue.

          “By the way, [I continued] FYI, each New Year, I make a resolution to learn something new. This year, I turned eighty years old and my plan is to resume piano lessons that I stopped when hurricane Camille hit my home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969 and my piano floated away. I can read music, spell chords and make some noise on the replacement piano I have had for forty years or so here in Memphis. This year I hope to improve my skills.

          “Thank you for what looks like a great technique. This evening I will be moving along to “Greensleeves” and beyond using the DVDs and the illustrated booklet. [signed] Mona Sides-Smith.

Meanwhile, back at the piano. My life is complete. Already, with the year not half gone, I have progressed farther with my piano lessons than I did during my whole year of Tai Chi.

The end.Mona 3x4



  1. Janet Nicholson Zimmerman

    hahahaha! The vision of you playing some chords and singing “Trouble in Mind I’m Blue” is enough to make me totally happy. You too, probably!

  2. Carolyn O'Mara

    Well written, as always. How wonderful that you found those DVDs! Hopefully I can visit near the end of the year to hear some of your new repertoire. In the meantime I enjoy replaying my little recording of the time you played Amazing Grace during my last visit.

  3. Rachel Farmer

    I think I heard something about raccoons?

    1. Mona Sides Smith

      Yes, there was that raccoon that stuck his head through the kitty door into the piano room. Luckily, my friend, Carolyn, was there at the time playing maracas along with my halting rhythm and she discouraged him/her by shaking the maracas in it’s face. Sadly, no other neighbor but the ‘coon has arrived to listen to one of my renditions. OH, well, a fan is a fan.

  4. Mona. what’s on tap for next year? Sky diving?

    1. Mona Sides-Smith

      Thanks for your comments. I continue to plunk and pound on the ivories (well, the plastics they are these days). Haven’t decided on next year’s adventure in learning. The suggestion for sky diving is tempting. It could take up the whole year, what with the suiting up, the take-off, opening the airplane door and jumping. That’s one day. The rest of the year in the hospital, with broken brittle bones and ruptured things, and the follow-up rehab therapy would be the learning curve lasting several months, or more.

  5. Very good piece, Mona. I can relate. I couldn’t find anyone to teach me either, so I finally just taought myself. Just keep on.

  6. So funny! Rock ‘n Roll Mona!

  7. Dolores Silk

    How funny! I am trying to learn a ‘bit’ of piano on my own since my vision has improved so much from my eye operations. I’v never played piano before and only want to play for my personal pleasure. You are so right about every learning something new every year, or improving on something you used to be able to do.

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