My favorite thing to do to unwind and de-stress is play the piano. I started lessons when I was nine (after two years of asking my parents). I took lessons through high school and continued playing nearly every day since then. I have been an accompanist for various groups over the years, mostly at church but a few years ago I became involved with a small local group called Singers Without A Cause (SWAC)—think show choir meets Saturday Night Live. We rehearse every Tuesday night, although I use that term loosely. It’s basically two hours of shenanigans with some music thrown in. For the three years I was helping my parents through serious illness and rehabilitation this weekly rehearsal was what kept me going. I could completely forget any stress going on outside of that room for those two hours.
We perform two shows a year, the first Saturday of May and November. Each show has a theme and the music chosen fits into that theme. We just did a country show and the spring show has the theme of colors—so every song will have color in the title or words. There are about 10-12 members. The skill level varies. We have no auditions. If you are willing to be there every Tuesday night year-round and also Sunday afternoons for six weeks before the show, you can join the group. We rehearse in a garage at a member’s house and use a stage that he built. Then the day before the show, we tear down the stage, keyboard, mics, music stands, speakers, sound board and all the props; load them in a box truck and set them up at the Eagles club where we perform. We do all the work ourselves. Another member paints the set each year, and costumes are found around our houses or borrowed from others.
About five years ago I decided I wanted to learn to play the violin. Having studied piano, I know how long it takes to master a musical instrument and I had heard that violin was difficult. At 50 years old, I knew I may not ever get to full mastery, but if I didn’t start lessons at all I wouldn’t get anywhere. Learning a musical instrument is an excellent example of “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” I enjoy the challenge and even though I get frustrated with my progress I try to remember that slow progress is still progress. I think this is something we can remember in every aspect of life.
Right after the November show we start rehearsing Christmas music because we sing at a couple local events for the holidays. But this week, we will start rehearsing music for the spring show. Mostly I am the accompanist, but sometimes I get to play violin or sing with the group. As you can imagine with a country show, we used a lot of fiddle. The finale for the show was a bluegrass song called “Old Joe Clark” with all 12 singers and four fiddles on stage. It was a lot of fun and even though the song was way above my skill level I managed to play over half of it. I am also part of a women’s acapella group within SWAC called the Four Pitches. If our director can find a song that fits the theme, then we will sing together. So, even though I enjoy playing violin and singing, my favorite place will always be at the keyboard. It’s where I’m most comfortable.
Putting together a show is a tremendous amount of work. It requires consistent dedication from every member to show up at rehearsal week after week and learn the music. Cooperation and teamwork are essential as well as paying attention to the big picture. If someone forgets to do something, another member steps in and does it so the show can run seamlessly. The more musicians we add to the band, the more the band has to rehearse together so that we can support the singers. Our goal is to start and end each song at the same time and play in the same key. Sounds simple, but we are all volunteers, we are not professional musicians and sometimes someone misses a rehearsal. When everyone is there all the time, it works beautifully. But, I love the challenge. Playing a musical instrument engages every area of your brain more so than any other activity.
So there’s a glimpse into my life outside of Theta Phi Alpha. Music has always been a big part of my life and always will be. I have been involved in some type of music endeavor for over 45 years and hope to continue this as long as possible. If you live in Ohio and want to see a fun but non-professional show let me know and I’ll get you tickets!