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Wed, Nov. 20

Column: No, I'm definitely not Liberace

Sometime during the early years of my life a piano materialized in our family's Fort Wayne, Indiana living room. My older sister took lessons so, it was inevitable that I would, too.

The thought of successfully playing such an instrument actually intrigued me. Practicing on the damned thing did not. I remember sitting painfully on that hard bench staring at sheet music written by guys who'd died before 1792. In my learned opinion, they didn't have a very good sense of rhythm. I couldn't find any part of their compositions that I could tap my toes to. Just think how his career might have soared during his lifetime if Bach had mixed a little ragtime.

I had to spend 30 minutes a day on that piano bench, supposedly improving my digital dexterity and general musical skills. Those were the longest freakin' minutes in the history of mankind. If I'd known about water boarding in those days I would have opted for it.

I have to admit, I was intoxicated by the vision of pounding out a powerful ditty on the ivories with my hair and hands flying in the throes of a great exertion. I could almost hear the triumphant applause and acclaim in the wake of one of my more popular performances. But my songs never played as well as they read on the music sheet.

So there I was, sentenced to a succession of 30-minute prison terms in the company of Ludwig, Franz and Wolfgang while Johnny, Fred and Louie were outside playing baseball. While they were batting for bases, I was battling fortissimo fugues by Bach. It didn't seem fair to a lad of eight. Come to think of it, it also doesn't seem fair to the geezer at this keyboard, either.

Enough was enough. I had only one real goal. I wanted to scrap the classics and catapult forthwith into playing Malaguena for my friends and neighbors the way Liberace did it.

Now, I'd like to clarify that Liberace and I never saw eye-to-eye on much of anything. At the same time, if I didn't admire his clothes or lifestyle, I did love his rendition of Malaguena. I remember watching him play it during his 1969 television show. Unfortunately, a meaningful relationship between Malaguena and me never came to pass.

As I grew into what some call adulthood, I kept a piano in the house. I actually sat down to play occasionally, but never, ever for 30 consecutive minutes. Eventually, the piano in the room became a décor item rather than a focus of entertainment. Postulating that I would, in fact, not accrue acclamation for my questionable keyboard prowess, I sold the piano just a couple of years ago. May its new owners reach the melodious musical heights of which I only dreamed.

It you'd like to comment on this column or relate a traumatic experience with your own childhood piano bench, email Wil Williams at wilaugust46@gmail.com.

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