Our house has been filled with Christmas music this month: I love hearing With-a-Why or Shaggy Hair Boy play Vince Guaraldi’s score from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. And of course, December is the month for holiday recitals.
Now that I’ve been playing piano for almost a year, I have new appreciation for these kids who go up to the piano and play songs in front of a crowd. I pay special attention to little kids near the beginning of the program. I find myself nodding sympathetically as a seven-year-old misses a note. “Yeah, it’s hard when your hands are doing two different things,” I think to myself. It helps for me to hear beginning students struggle to play the piano, because my own children are way past that stage.
With-a-Why and Shaggy Hair Boy played a couple of duets at this year’s recitals, and as always, the crowd loved them. It’s not just that they are talented musicians (they are), but there’s something about seeing two brothers, sitting side by side, their four hands moving confidently over the keys. Shaggy Hair Boy, with his wild curly hair pulled back into a ponytail, has an expressive face that’s fun to watch while he’s playing, while With-a-Why is a shy and serious kid who lets his dark silky hair hide his face while he’s playing. They both love music, and it shows in the way they play. Afterward every piano recital, other parents always come up to me and say, “You must be so proud of those boys!” Their piano teacher, whom we all adore, said to me, “Your boys are the reason I love what I do.”
This week, the two brothers took their piano playing skills to the assisted-living home where my mother-in-law lives. They had to make do with a small keyboard instead of the grand piano they get to use at the music studio, and they mostly played simple Christmas songs that the crowd could sing. My husband grabbed a microphone and led the singing. Someone in a wheelchair would yell out the name of a Christmas song. Shaggy Hair Boy would page through the book until he found the song, and then he and With-a-Why would just start playing it.
The program officially ended at 4 pm, but hardly anyone left the room. My husband, goaded by a crowd of elderly women, sang some Elvis songs complete with corny dance moves. (He loves to impersonate Elvis, and he’s got the right kind of voice.) The boys did a jazzy duet of “Go, Tell it on a Mountain.” Then they did several of the songs from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. With-a-Why played some of his classical pieces, and then he and Shaggy Hair Boy just both started fooling around at the piano, the way they always do, talking and laughing as they play. Even though With-a-Why is incredibly shy, he’s completely unself-conscious when he’s focused on music.
The elderly women in the room kept motioning me to come over to them, and then they’d say things like, “You have a wonderful family.” That’s something I never get tired of hearing.