Sorry, Bach.

It was a warm fall afternoon when I sauntered my way into a small basement studio, knowing nothing about what was to unfold. Inside approached a man, mid- to-late forties, slightly graying slicked back hair, small build with a striking jaw line framing a pleasant smile. He introduced his Eastman Doctoral self to my freshman-neophytic, pianistic-know-it-all, somewhat taller by 3-inches young, almost 18-year-old boy. Thus began our journey into the wonderful world of music exploration and partnership.

Through years of painful re-examination, it took more than eighty-eight keys to unlock doors slammed shut from pride, unsubstantiated self-awareness, and talent with less-than adequate preparation. This basement dweller of higher knowledge and advanced degrees of insight knew this, instinctively, once I began my introductory, “I’ll show you my genius!” … striking the first notes of Chopin’s G-Minor Ballade (of which I felt was so exquisitely played similar to the likes of Horowitz himself, btw). Jim, as I eventually was allowed to call him, stopped me soon after I began, placed his left hand on my shoulder, gently, and calmly said, “We’ll get back to this masterpiece in a bit .. for now, how about we look at Bach?” ….. Noooooooo!!!!

Not Bach!! I spent years avoiding this dry, powder wig, boring dude. There’s no sexiness in Bach!. Bach has no chick-magnet appeal like Chopin, Liszt, or Rachmaninoff. Jim HAD to be kidding me!! C’mon, man! Ok, so Bach had, like 19 kids and I’ve mega-props for his resilience in that department, but his music takes discipline, practice, and eff..eff… ef…fort oh, I started to see the problem. Damn.

Ding ding!! Light bulb moment in my mind, but I wasn’t about to let him know that. Why would I? Stubborn is a trait I am proud of to this day.

To go through the minutiae of my stuffy, eyeball-watering, note-by-night college lesson years with Jim isn’t the point of this post. I’d love to share all the moments. The struggles. Midnight hours alone with Chopin Etudes wearing my fingers to the bone, Czerny exercises sitting on my every nerve, Schumann lyrical lines I just couldn’t shape correctly, and Strauss waltzes accented so improperly I wanted to throw scores of blood curdling screams across the already small studio room … these are some of a thousand rough experiences nestled in among the few perfectly played moments in front of audiences comfortably settled in their plush, velvety seats in the campus recital hall.

I entered college as a music education major specializing in trombone studies. That was the path, anyway. I knew my passion was the way of pianistic endeavors, but earning a living as a pianist was not encouraged. It took a year of studying to convince myself that path, ultimately, wasn’t the way after all … after one phone call and a little paperwork, I adjusted my thinking and set a new way forward.

All this to say I did end up two college degrees. Yeah me, right? Now, I sell hot “dawgs” for a living and am quite proud of my life … and significantly less full of ego than my earlier, late-teen self.

All of this funneling down to my main point. The past month or so, I’ve posted daily piano pieces on Facebook. These exist as video evidence of my love for the instrument and an extension of wonderful music to the surrounding community as well. If you’d like to listen, they are posted under, “Doug Rhodes Piano”. These would not be possible without that first step into that musty, welcoming studio many years ago.

The selections vary from Jazz to Classical, Rock & Sacred to Motown. I believe there are about 40 total. Now, I don’t claim to have the market cornered on what helps any of us during these trying days, but I can at least give you some – if only a few – moments away to think about happier things. Maybe Chopin, Peter Nero, Barry Manilow, Josef Zawinul, Floyd Kramer, Beethoven, the Beatles, or Les Mis can pull you through … hold your hand – with the help of my two hands. I don’t know. It’s my offering to you.

Oh, and there’s no Bach … still. Years later and I’m as stubborn as I always was. Some things don’t change. Sorry, Jim.


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