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Meditations: My first teachers in music

If my gratitude has to have a beginning, it starts with the musical place in which I was born. My first teachers in music were my parents. In their young adult years, my father and mother formed a band with their friends, performed, and reached their peak at the North Sea Jazz Festival. Their love and passion for music, which they each discovered individually, have their own stories.

Even more luxurious than a radio player with CDs, a television with a video player on which I could play Shania Twain's music videos over and over again, and later even a computer with internet and endless music, was my parents' music. Even if my mother never recorded a video of my sister and me dancing to my father's guitar playing, I can still vividly recall what that memory felt like. And that is more important than what it looked like (we can't call these dance steps yet). In the evening, after dinner, after the bath, just before going to sleep to release all adrenaline, my father not only played the guitar with his hands but also moved his head and shoulders. His right foot kept the rhythm, and his eyes stayed closed. My father taught me to feel music.

When I visualize my mother's singing voice, I see flowing water. It is clean, smooth, and soothing. My mother's singing was limited to the church choir, which I often regretted. When she led the vocals and her voice rose above the others in volume through the microphone, it was clear that her singing voice was a gift to listen to. But in the church choir, where her voice neither disappeared nor stood out, she was an indispensable part. Her voice blended into a sea of voices, calming the loud enthusiasts with its purity and supporting the softer voices with more volume and fullness. A sailor consciously and harmoniously riding the waves of the ocean. My mother taught me to feel with music.

Piano lessons every Wednesday. It will remain a secret of this world whose choice it was in the end. The fact is that my sister started something, either a sport, Chinese school, or in this case, piano lessons, and my younger sister and I followed (except Chinese school because she lost interest a bit too quickly). My first piano teacher had me hold an orange to help shape my hands. The stiff, rigid learning of notes and staccato piano play eventually led to my mother having to apologize to the piano teacher for me not wanting to come downstairs for class. My second, and in my opinion last, piano teacher taught me how to really play the piano. As a kid, I did not know much about  Constanze's story about her love and passion for the piano, but it was not necessary for her to tell me. It was audible, visible, and tangible. She could play with her eyes closed, like my father. Did she follow the piano, or did the piano follow her? She felt with the music, like my mother. How could she convince me not to close my eyes and stray from the music sheet? From Constanze, I learned to translate what I felt into music. In the last lessons before she left for Hong Kong, now in her studio in The Hague, she changed her teaching method. Books and pianosheets were left aside, for us just a sheet of white paper and colored markers were enough. She drew an orange line on the page, followed by green and then black. "Play this."


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