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Marc Witmer

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Monday, March 26, 2012

A Story of How God Gifted Me

I grew up listening to my father play on the grand piano in the big family room.  Then, as each of my four older sisters began to play the piano, I would listen to them play.  Sometimes I would lie on the hard oak wood floor underneath the piano and feel the thunder of music rain down upon me.  It was like being underneath a waterfall as the powerful stream of even a small creek comes crashing down upon the rocks. 

One of my earliest memories is lying on the floor and watching the brass rods of the sustain and sostenuto pedals being pushed up and down as my father played.  It was like watching a beautiful machine in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory crank out fluffy notes of pleasure that you could grab from the air as they swam out from under the piano’s soundboard!  As I looked closer, I noticed how the brass rod would push up on a lever, and then the other end of that lever would push up on something else… I was not quite sure what!  Then one day a few years later, my mom was cleaning out the piano’s inside, and I got to see what that “something else” was.  It was a complete rack that stretched the whole width of the piano.

            This rack was comprised of a whole bunch of felt pads that were being lifted up so that the strings could ring and ring and ring, seemingly forever!  I then noticed that below the strings were 88 (I counted them!) little hammers that were covered with the same type of felt pads that were on the rack.  Each one these hammers had a complex set of levers attached, and as I pushed down on one of the ivory keys, I saw one of the hammers strike one of the strings!  It was like a giant game of MousetrapÔ all wrapped inside the grand piano.

In the midst of all this mechanical wonder, I knew that there was a pattern, a logical order that someone had put all together.  The way all the hammers lined up, the lines that the strings formed as they crisscrossed inside the huge lid, the gradually shortened length of each string as one looked from left to right, the hundreds of pins that each string was tied to…  All of it had a beautiful magic to it that seemed to speak directly to my whole body, mind, and soul.  Like a guitar tuning fork that resonates upon the body of a guitar, I too felt the congruous resonance of a wonderful understanding, even though I did not truly comprehend at that time exactly what music was and how it worked.  I just knew I liked it and how music made me feel good!

A few years later, after I had learned my ABC’s and read through the book, Go Dog Go! a few times, I remember looking at the notes on the page of some music that one of my sisters was learning.  I watched her as she placed her fingers on the assortment of black and white keys.  The “tick-tock” of the metronome rang in the silence as she prepared to begin playing.  As I looked at the printed music, I noticed how the round notes laid on a grid of lines.  It reminded me of what the inside of a piano looked like, with the round felt-covered hammers interspersed among the lines of strings.  Again, a sense of wonder and understanding overcame me!

I watched her fingers go “up” the piano to the right, and I noticed how the round black dots on the printed music seemed to go up the page as well; and when her fingers went “down” the piano to the left, I noticed how the round black dots moved down the grid of lines.  I knew immediately there was a special relationship between the grid of lines and black dots on the page and the grid of black and white keys stretching across the keyboard of the piano.  My sister related to me the mnemonic “Every Good Boy Does Fine” that represented the lines of the treble clef upon which some of the black dots were placed (E-G-B-D-F); in addition, the mnemonic “FACE” that represented the spaces of the treble clef (F-A-C-E).  Again, a sense of wonder and understanding overcame me!

Later that same day, I sat down alone by myself and opened the music to the same sheet that I had seen earlier while watching my sister.  I remember once seeing a manuscript of some hieroglyphics, and how strangely magnificent it was to look at a collection of symbols that made absolutely no sense, but you knew it did to someone.  As I looked at the music that day, it was NOT like this at all.  I was looking at something that should have made absolutely no sense.  Instead, I comprehended the placement of the notes upon the grid and was able to crudely follow the same pattern using my fingers on the keyboard.  Again, a sense of wonder and understanding overcame me!

Looking back now as an adult to this childhood discovery, I am cognizant of this tremendous gift from God.  He not only created me to fulfill His will to love and play music, but He gave me an understanding that bypassed the very beginning stages of learning music.  So many people I have known over the years have told me that these primary stages of learning music directed them down such a boring path that they gave up.  They had to suffer the drudgery of this basic learning that I never had to experience.  Because of this, they did not continue on the path of learning music, and many times these same people as adults have expressed to me with sadness that they wish they had not given up so soon with their musical training.  Their path was a different one; one that He designed specifically for each of them, just as He had placed me on my path to learning music. 

For me, another beautiful blessing was discovering my unique path at such a young age.  Even though I have diverted from this path from time to time, I have always known where that path was!  I may have wandered away, but there was a definite line of demarcation that I knew I was crossing whenever I was choosing to leave my path.  I have encountered many people who say they do not know what their purpose is, or what God created them to do.  This is sad, as well, and I want to encourage you even now to prayerfully consider how He has made you and how you can best use the gifts that he has given you to the glory of God…

12:45 pm cdt

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