Welcome to my world: Sally, the Pianist

Just recently, Sally Anderson, joined our breakfast group. Sally told us, “I lived in California for 28 years and moved back to Pennsylvania in 2015, because I wanted to be closer to my daughter and five grandchildren. Another daughter moved with me and lives in the house too. Yet another daughter is still in California.”

We found out Sally was a professional musician and still practiced on her piano. Thus it was, after one of our breakfast gatherings, we drove to Sally’s house, in Mertztown, to listen to Sally play renditions of her favorites.

As one of Sally’s audience, sitting in her dining area, I listened as she first told us a brief history of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin. She stated, “My goal is to play from memory and not be distracted by an audience nearby.”

Even though I have no ear for music, nor do I play an instrument, I thoroughly enjoyed Sally’s performance. I was extremely impressed by her hand movements as they glided so smoothly over the keys.

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After the recital was complete, I asked Sally about the one movement of crossing her left hand over the right hand, yet still playing expertly, She told me, “The crossing over of hands is very common in piano music because, as we have only 10 fingers and there are 88 keys, we can cover more ground, so to speak, by crossing over rather than leaping around. Most composers indicate it in their music.”

I continued questioning her at what age in life she learned to love music and study it.

“I began the study of piano at about 7, and, a few years later the violin. I worked at both instruments, but always loved piano the most. The violin is useful for being able to play in orchestras and other ensembles, which I did for many years. My parents were musicians and always made sure I had good teachers. I am very grateful to them for that. I studied piano and violin at Indiana University. Although I took a degree in French, I studied music the entire time. I taught piano and violin lessons for about 20 years in California.

How long does it take to learn a piece, like the Bach piece, that you played for us?

“I am a good sight reader (a busy accompanist for many years), but memorizing is a slow process for me. I have to play a composition at least 100 times to feel confident that it’s memorized. And of course, the time to learn it in the first place! And then … if I don’t play it often enough it’s no longer memorized! I recently made a list of all the pieces I want to keep in my repertoire and vowed to play them once a week. On a daily basis I am learning new things and memorizing them. I practice about 3 hours every day, but I can’t say I’m disciplined for that. It’s just what I always want to do. Now that I’m retired, I have the luxury to do that. Furthermore, I only work on the pieces that I love, not what someone else needs me to learn. Such bliss!”

For the love of music, Sally continues to play and her audience (the breakfast gang) will be there to listen.