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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Time-consuming (02/24/11)

TITLE: Hammers Hitting Strings
By Bonnie Bowden


Hammers Hitting Strings

Frances felt the vibrations from the piano keys as her fingers flew across the smooth, polished Ivorites. In her mind, she could hear the relentless pulse of the metronome as it kept beat to the ¾ time of her piece, Johann Sebastian Bach’s, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”

The stage lights mounted over the hall’s Yamaha grand piano beat down upon her. After losing her sight from Leber’s congenitae amourosis at three months of age, her other senses had become more acute. As a child, Frances began to echo the sounds around her, accurately repeating the chirp of a cricket or the crow of a bantam rooster.

She was drawn to the piano at the tender age of four. Her dear mother had brailed the keys, so she could identify each note by the feel of the raised dots. She could still remember her sense of accomplishment when she had mastered her first song, “Mary had a Little Lamb.”

At about six years of age, her parents decided to hire Mrs. Westerfield as her music teacher. Mrs. Westerfield was a professor at the local college. She didn’t believe that real talent should ever go to waste. Although Frances couldn’t see Mrs. Westerfield, she imagined her as a petite lady with wiry, dark hair and a personality to match.

At first, Frances had rebelled at the constant need for practice. It took a lot of time and patience to continuously repeat the same notes and lessons over and over again.

“Try that scale again,” Mrs. Westerfield scolded.

“I’d rather be out in the barn playing with Patch and her three puppies,” Frances lamented.

“Practice makes perfect,” Mrs. Westerfield replied. “Try it again from the top.”

After progressing from her rudimentary skills, she would sometimes practice for hours at a time. Her time spent at the piano was no longer a chore to be endured, but a gift to be explored. Since Frances was a child prodigy with perfect pitch; she often played songs on the piano by ear. She especially liked to imitate the old hymns she heard in church. Her God-given ability rarely left her the time to dwell on her blindness.

Her younger sister, Grace had a voice like a lark and its carefree spirit as well. She didn’t have the patience to be tied down to the piano bench for an hour at a time. The truth was that since Grace could sing anywhere, you could hear her clear voice as she scampered around in the kitchen or outside in the flower bed. However, sometimes Frances would accompany her on the piano at their old, white clapboard country church.

It wasn’t until her early teens that Frances truly recognized all the sacrifices her parents and her younger sister, Grace, had endured for her sake. Her dad, Bob, would often pick up odd jobs at neighboring farms in their community to pay for her lessons. Her mom, Kate, who was handy with a sewing machine and a needle and thread, would make over her old dresses for Grace. Her sister Grace never seemed to complain at wearing the redone hand-me-downs.

Now was her time to shine. She could finally showcase her talents and prove that all the time and sacrifice had been worthwhile. Here she was, playing before the faculty and students at the Eastern Musical Academy in New York City. They had chosen her from over 100 other talented applicants in a nationwide contest. She felt a little like a fish out of water. She wasn’t used to the constant noise and bustle of the city.

The piece was reaching its climax. She hit the last note. Then a totally rapt silence filled the hall before giving way to thunderous applause.

The truth was that in her heart, she was only playing to an audience of one. It felt as if the sounds from her prayers were being lifted straight to heaven, just like hammers hitting strings.

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This article has been read 462 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lisa Fowler03/03/11
Excellent! Enjoyable from beginning to ending. Your writing is superb. Keep up the wonderful work and thank you for sharing.
Lisa Fowler03/03/11
By the way, wonderful title too.
diana kay03/04/11
lovely. piano practice is certainly time consuming and it takes along time and many hours of repetition to get it right. lovely writing and added interest with the piano players blindness
Helen Curtis03/05/11
This is a lovely piece. As an ex-piano student, I can relate to the drudgery as a young child; but oh, how I wish I had kept it up now...some years later! Very well written and very enjoyable.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/15/11
Congratulations for placing 10th in level one!