21 April 2015

Music Lessons from the Plumber

Maybe this is terrible, but I secretly look forward to having the plumbers come.  Not because I desire a problem--no, I don't have a lot of time for extras of those.  But these guys are hard-working, friendly people, and I always enjoy their attention to courtesy as they take care of life's basics around the house.

I think that's what one of my favorite uncles is like as a plumber (I'm allowed to have more than one favorite uncle, right?), although I've never been out on the job site with him.

Today's visit from the plumbers didn't disappoint.  As we talked about the details of parts and next visits, I mentioned my up-coming responsibilities as choir accompanist at a local school's music festival at the end of this week.  The conversation turned to the piano gracing the living room.

"I think it was built in 1907," I told them.

They did the math.  Yes, 108 years old, as far as we know.  Amazing, right?  

Turns out, one of the plumbers is also a musician who plays several instruments.  He told me how he learned to play by sheer effort and commitment.  And you know what?  I think he had a lot of wisdom to share with this piano teacher and her students.  It was just the affirmation and encouragement I needed in this busier-than-usual music making week.

Making Music Takes Discipline

That's no surprise to me.  I've been making music for a lot of years, and I'm still making music because at each step I've stayed disciplined.  The plumber said playing accordion didn't come easily to him.

"Why can't I do this?" he asked himself, over and over and over.

But he didn't give up, and neither did I.  Now we're both musicians for life.

Making Music Takes Priority

If learning to play your instrument isn't a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly priority, you will never learn to play your instrument well.  The plumber said he turned down countless invitations as a young man to go have fun just to keep trying to play.  Even before he was good at playing.  

He simply wanted to play, and he knew it would take making his instrument a priority if he was every going to learn.

Opening the Musical Ear

And you know what?  All that discipline and all that priority eventually "opened the musical ear", as he put it.  

"Once the musical ear is opened," he told me, "there's no stopping it."

He's entirely self taught.  He tunes all his instruments by ear.  He hears things other people can't hear.

Because he kept at it, day in and day out, until he could play.


  1. Well, I liked your plumber when I met him, but now I'm even more impressed!!

  2. That's so true. People always ask how my youngest son (who is 20 now) learned to play the piano so well -- and I think it's just that he's always been so persistent. He plays all the time.

  3. Amazing! His story has good spiritual applications as well.


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