… is the only phrase that I did not use in this new cover video.
My coworker suggested that I participate in Perez Hilton’s Beyonce cover video contest, and so I thought, what the hey? I had some time yesterday so I put something together; also excited about using my new video camera for this purpose (Canon Vixia M41). I hope you notice the upgrade in video quality! Enjoy it.
“My Love Goes Free” by Jon Foreman
I’m visiting my parents for the weekend and couldn’t help but get sentimental as my mom went to the piano to play some old hymns. This is the woman who taught me this beautiful instrument. This is the piano that I grew up playing. It’s more than 20 years old now and it’s all out of tune. Probably sounds awful to the neighbors. But it’s music to my ears.
I remember the first time we got the piano. It was a dream coming true right before my eyes. We had a piano back in Korea, but there was no way to bring that over when we moved to the States. It’s not like we could just go piano shopping. We didn’t even have a couch or a bed, and getting a piano was out of the question. But one of my mom’s friends helped us to purchase this humble upright and when we moved from Los Angeles to an apartment in upstate New York, it came into the room that my sister and I shared. It was exciting.
On this piano, I learned to play Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann… I noodled around with chords I didn’t even know at the time and played songs we sang at church and accompanied my family for family worship every night. Without this piano, would I even have learned how to play?
To my mom, a house wasn’t a home until it had a piano in it. I am grateful for my mom, and for that ol’ piano.
On February 8, 1994, Salt-N-Pepa released that very catchy song called, “Whatta Man”.
My dad had just recently bought a Sony dual-cassette deck stereo with a CD player (::gasp::) on the top of it. It was a beauty – in black, sleek form, and it changed my life forever. Every day, I’d come home from school and was glued to the radio, tape-recording each song that caught my attention and then air-punching the DJ if he spoke during the intro or the outro of the song. Even back then R&B/hip-hop drew me in the most and I was listening to a lot of KISS FM while living in NJ.
When “Whatta Man” came out, everyone at school was talking about it and it was on heavy rotation on KISS FM. It’s a great song, a surprisingly positive one about “whatta good man” someone’s significant other was. The thing is, I found it really hard to learn the song because the verses are rapped rather than sung, and so I just couldn’t memorize it no matter how many times I listened to the song. So one day, I was determined to learn the lyrics and sat down with paper and pencil in hand. I listened to the song on repeat, probably about 20 or 30 times, rewinding again and again when I didn’t catch a lyric. I wrote down each word to that rap and I made sure I got every word correctly.
Then I memorized the song in its entirety. I could sing it and rap it at any given moment for the next year. Here are the lyrics (radio version), to bring you back, or if you don’t know the song, to give you a flavor. And here’s the YouTube vid of the song so you can hear it. I know you want to.
“Whatta Man” by Salt-N-Pepa
What a man, what a man, what a man
I wanna take a minute or two, and give much respect due
My man is smooth like Barry, and his voice got bass
Yes, my man says he loves me, never says he loves me not
My man gives real loving that’s why I call him Killer
In about 2 days, I had it down perfectly. Yes, I knew each line by heart.
When my family moved to Ridgefield, NJ in the summer before I started 6th grade, we came to know of a music studio in a neighboring town where we could take lessons. It was called AeKyung Studio. It didn’t take long for my parents to enroll my sister and me for lessons there, in violin and piano, respectively.
By that time, I had been playing the piano for about 6 years already but had never taken lessons from anyone other than my mom. It was a bit nerve-racking walking into my first lesson. It was a small room with a grand piano in it, and my teacher’s name was Mrs. Goltz.
She was a sweet lady; very welcoming, and also very curious about my level of proficiency on the piano. I honestly don’t remember exactly what I played for her, but I’m pretty sure it was a Mozart Sonata and Beethoven’s Fur Elise. That Sonata is still my favorite to this day and I play it when my fingers have an inkling for some classical music. Not a terribly complex piece but nostalgic and hauntingly comforting.
When I played Fur Elise for Mrs. Goltz, she stopped me in the middle of the piece and asked me if I had ever learned to use the pedal. I was using it while I was playing the piece for her, so I wasn’t sure what she meant by the question. Then she walked over, sat down next to me and put her foot on the sustain pedal and told me to play the piece again. While I was playing, she showed me that the pedal is supposed to be pushed down slightly after I press the keys that I want to sustain.
Slightly AFTER? What was this new instruction that I had never known before? I didn’t know how to do that; all along I was pressing it simultaneously with the keys and that’s all I knew to do. I immediately heard the difference though. When I pressed the keys and the pedal simultaneously, all the notes were muddy and jumbled together in one indistinguishable ball of noise. When it was pressed slightly afterwards, the notes rang true and clear in all their glory. I couldn’t quite get it during the lesson and soon it was time to go home.
That week, I practiced for hours using the pedal correctly until I mastered it.
I don’t remember exactly when I started to play the piano, but it could very well have been around the age of 3 or 4. My mom was a classical piano teacher and she was determined to teach me starting at an early age. I don’t have any memories of actually first learning how to play that beautiful 88-key instrument, but my earliest memory of playing the piano was this one time when I was about 4 years old (I know I was 4 because my sister had not been born yet – she’s 5 years younger than me). My mom would typically go over an exercise with me and then immediately thereafter, I had to practice it. She’d draw ten little dots on top of my piano book and that meant that I had to play the exercise 10 times that day. I’d have to put a circle around the dot after every time I went through the exercise once. And when I was done with all ten, I had ten circles going across with dots in the middle of them. This was the way I practiced for the next 6 years when I was learning the piano from my mom.
This particular day, I didn’t want to practice (or was that every day…). This little 4 year-old wanted to play outside. So I cheated a bit (shhhh, don’t tell my mom). After going over the exercise about four times, I went ahead and circled the rest of the dots to make it look like I had done it ten times. Then I ran downstairs where my mom was hanging out with the neighbor so I could play. As I walked near the door of the neighbor’s apartment, I heard my mom say something along the lines of…”She better practice everything before she comes down here. I taught her a new lesson this morning.”
When I heard that, without hesitation, I jet back upstairs and finished practicing the exercise ten times as I was instructed to do from the beginning.
(Header Photograph by Allison Mak)