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My Musical Experience in 2018

A Yearly Review of My Piano Practice Routines

This year marks eight years since I decide to play piano, and it started off very motivational. I still attended piano lessons and my teacher’s selection of pieces has been somewhat challenging, as I tried to improve at an advanced level, but it was still a great experience to help further my musicianship. 

For three months from the end of January till April I tried to work on "Moonlight Sonata": one of Beethoven's Famous works. The parts that seemed difficult were reworked until it became second nature to me. To this day I don't feel I have it fully memorized, so I always sight read through it whenever I perform it. The Beethoven Marathon continued as I spent a whole year trying to Master Beethoven's First sonatas, which contains four movements. This piece was written in 1795-96 and it is dedicated to one of the great composers of classical music Joseph Hayden, who was his teacher at the time, although it's been speculated that Joseph Hayden wasn't a huge influence on Beethoven, but rather Mozart was, and would continue to influence his music including that infamous, "Moonlight Sonata," which was inspired by a scene in Mozart's Opera "Don Juan." The Sonata that I had to practice was really difficult and very challenging. I started the first movement struggling with dynamics, fingering, and muscle memory. It really tested my strength on my instrument. The forth movement was not so difficult but it was still hard to master and eventually I might have all four movements memorized. 

This year had a huge blessing when I got to perform for my co-workers at my old job for Valentines Day. Of course I was nervous, I haven’t played for an audience in years, but it was very inspiring, and it reminded me how real life experiences like that can influence someone more than anything you can see online. My selections included the classic jazz standard, "Misty," "Somewhere," from West Side Story, Jeffory Osbourne's "On the Wings of Love," and my personal favorite when my repertoire memory is out of whack,” Beauty and The Beast." 

As much as I try to look back on such a proud moment, I always remind myself that in the midst of the moment, chaos was ensuing in a state south of me. I was performing while the Parkland High School Shooting was happening killing 17 people including staff and students. It’s just another moment in life where I don’t feel I deserve to be happy. But even though I was proud that day, my heart is still heavy from those who innocently suffered. Like most goals I strive for, my personal life effects my actions upon my goals. Many events from being tired out from work, being broke, family issues, and drinking, has caused many halts on my goals this year. Even a damaged keyboard stand has caused me to take breaks. 

Sometimes listening to music can inspire me, especially if it's something I want to practice. I also found that scientific problem-solving has helped me meet my end goals, and the more I stick with it, the more effective the task becomes. 

This is when I started using computer apps to help aid in my muscle memory when my own self discipline to focus and practice got harder. The Piano Marvel app was very effective when it came to sight reading as well as breaking down a piece measure by measure, the same way a manual piano practice would be, only more organized. 

I also used Synthesia which is a very popular app,It didn't do much for me when it came to sight reading but seeing where my hands should fall on the keys was very helpful to me. I manage to master a Tchaikovsky Piece from days of practicing with this app. 

Outside these music apps I have also managed to master two pieces for Halloween such as, "Danse Machbre," by Camille Saint Saens, and, "The Great Pumpkin Waltz." 

By the end of the year I had a short lived job at a piano shop and even though I thought this would inspire me even more, it wasn’t very consistent in terms of scheduling, and the pay wasn't so great, which made me depressed with my financial situation. 

This depression even effected my Christmas spirit. Christmas was always my favorite time of the year, and what gets me really excited about this holiday is the music, it always lifted my spirits, and inspired me to play more on my instrument. But given the circumstance I’ve been given it just started slipping away. 

This situation also made me stop attending piano lessons, but if I can get it together, I will return shortly to learn more and achieve more. Eventually I would find being motivated is more of a struggle than a "pick-me-up." Sometimes going on Youtube, or reading about music in books and articles wasn’t doing it for me like it used to, when I first started practicing years ago, but now I think I found a solution to expand my creativity. 

For a few months I've been practicing Nichiren Buddhism, this started from "shamefully" reading plenty of self help books, and one autobiography by one of my favorite musical inspirations,"Herbie Hancock." He has been a Buddhist since 1972, and his book gives a lot of insight as to why he chooses this belief. It's with this autobiography and well-thought-out self help books that make all of my questions about life a lot more clearer. I’ve always had these habitual thoughts about action, speech, judgement, gratitude, responsibility, creativity, and honesty, especially because we all grow up and encounter people who either express these traits with honesty, dishonesty, or just out of self pride, and now through this practice of Buddhism it becomes a lot more practical and understandable; more understandable than any other lecture I’ve been given in my life on these subjects. 

As Buddhists we believe that the Buddha nature is within us, as well as everyone else, whether they believe it or not. From having faith as well as encouraging deep study and practice we can unleash this inner spirit, and have it effect the people around us. Emotions are like energy; energy that's expressed on a daily basis, and we can absorb these energies and use them for better or worse. 

As far as my creativity goes it helps me to feel more awakened and gratified about my musical experiences, as much as I love being a piano player, there are times when I get impatient when I’m practicing with my teacher, or by myself, and soon the work and inspiration suffer from it. So when practicing Nichiren Buddhism I keep true to my faith to feel more alive, inspired, and grateful for achieving such a skill. 

Music is an emotional experience in every sense, and to show my emotions through my instrument as opposed to my voice is somewhat subtle yet beautiful. What makes it even more inspiring is when I get to share that experience, either with my piano instructor, or any kind of audience which can include family and or friends. For 2019, there's a lot I’d like to accomplish. As I continue to move forward I’d like to advance in sight reading and improvisation, as well as sharpen my piano memory, and see more live performances for inspiration and support. Also my dynamic control has always been criticized, and I’d like to shape that as well, dynamics is where the raw emotions come alive when I play piano, with these goals in mind I hope to continue moving forward. The idea of moving forward is the idea that life doesn’t need to be "rinse and repeat," nor should it. If time continues to move forward, so should we. Repetition becomes mundane when the repetition is something we feel doesn’t fit our lives. My own faith and experiences makes this concept of moving forward much more evident and it’s with this mindset, and a force of action that 2019 will open up many possibilities for my creativity, and my all around life.

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