I was born with a perpetual musical earworm in my head. Dad could play the violin, banjo and harmonica, and he passed on his musical genes to me. Not only did I take piano lessons, I ended up playing the clarinet in the Hilo Intermediate and Hilo High School bands.
In college, some friends and I formed a folk-singing group and I played the tenor ukulele, guitar and recorder.
Here’s the story I wrote about my piano adventures in my old Hilo Days website.
A Born Pianist
That summer [of 1956], I picked up two more activities. I adopted stamp collecting all on my own, but piano lessons were forced on me.
Mom and Dad always came up with stuff to cramp my style. If it wasn't Japanese School, it was those consarned piano lessons.
Sister Dayle had started taking piano lessons a couple of years before and was really not bad at all. This being the case, our parents decided to buy a piano.
Now, a family cannot have a piano in the house with only one child able to play. Actually, I think they had a grand plan in their heads all the time. The plan was for all their children to take piano lessons.
After Dayle had proved that musical talent ran in the family, it was time for Craig to learn music. Then Audrey, then Eric, then Karen.
Much to everyone's surprise, I turned out to be quite good. My regular teacher had quit after I'd been taking lessons for a year or so (it was not my fault), and Mrs. Kunitomo, who ran the studio, took me under her wing.
I remember my first lesson with her. I wasn't doing so well sight-reading a new piece she had given me, so she started scolding me and telling me that I really needed to practice more. Then, she asked me how long I had been taking lessons, and I said one year, and she got quiet real fast.
"Really? I thought you were a fourth-year student! Then, you're good!"
The Miyamoto Legend grows …
The highlight of my piano career was a duet I played with a fellow student in a recital at the Gaspro auditorium. The piece was "The March of Wooden Soldiers." He played the first piano part and I played the second piano, and we brought down the house with the lively piece.
Our teacher at that time was Miss Shinn, and that magnificent performance and resulting accolade kind of made up for an earlier recital she put on, where everything went wrong. Students had forgotten their music, the duets were out of synch, music sheets fell off the piano, and I got confused at one point and had to stop for a second before continuing.
I continued with my lessons through my sophomore year in high school, before I was allowed to retire. Throughout high school though, I bought popular sheet music and continued to play. As usual, Mom and Dad were right. Piano lessons instilled a deep of appreciation of music in me during my adolescent years.
My own two sons would benefit from this experience as well. When they were kids, we forced them to take lessons. Call it "passing on the agony."
Speaking of the piano, Obachan surprised me one day. Out of the clear blue, she decided to play the piano. I don't ever recall her touching the piano before, and I'm sure she never had a lesson in her life. On this day, however, she sat down and began plinking out a tune — for some reason, Red River Valley sticks in my mind.
And one day, as I was playing Elvis' It's Now or Never, she walked over and asked, "Where'd you learn to play Back to Sorrento"?
Sometimes, Obachan could be amazing. You just never knew what she could do, or knew.