Musical Prodigy

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
One of many funny short stories from my childhood.
This one is about me taking on the accordion (!) at age 7.

Submitted: June 30, 2009

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Submitted: June 30, 2009

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When I was seven I had the urge to learn how to play a musical instrument. I think most kids go through that stage and with some, it actually sticks. For some strange reason my choice wasn’t a piano, drums or some other main stream instrument. No. I went for the accordion. At about 4’8 and 50lbs I decided that an accordion that weights 15lbs was the perfect instrument for me. My parents weren’t thrilled with my decision but they were good sport and wanted to encourage me as I strived to be the next best thing in the world of child accordion prodigies.

“Like anything else, he’ll move on and give up on the idea” my dad told the salesman as we were browsing the store, looking for the perfect accordion. He took me to a huge store that specialized in musical instruments, and seemed like heaven at the time. Despite trying to lure me to the organs and pianos section, I kept insisting on the accordion. “Ok, if you don’t like anything else, we’ll come back and get it next week” he told me as we were leaving the store, secretly hoping I will come to my 7 year old senses.

A week later my dad was making sure he was familiar with the return policy as he still had high hopes for the idea to die young. “you can bring it back within a week Sir” the salesman said. I was jumping up and down like a maniac. You would think I was told I was awarded a life time membership and free access to Disney world by my reaction but it was actually the accordion that did it for me.

It came in a big black box that I honestly couldn’t really carry myself, but only drag as my parents watched in horror. I also needed help getting it on my lap as it covered my entire top half. You could only see my head popping and my hands on the side of the accordion. I played it for long stretches at a time until either my legs got tired of carrying the weight, or my parents pleaded long enough for me to stop.

A week later, when it was clear this wasn’t just a random obsession that will quickly pass, my parents were on the look for an accordion teacher. “If you are going to play all day, it will be nice if we can enjoy it too” my mom said. And so the search began for a skilled teacher that will take on an innocent kid with dreams of becoming the Richard Clayderman of accordions.

“You are going to have your first lesson next week” my mom announced with excitement that was directed towards the rest of the family more than me, as if she was saying “we are getting this under control soon!” to this day I’m not sure how or who convinced my parents to hire Mali as my teacher but I remember our first encounter.

Mali was a heavy set woman who barely made it up the stairs to our apartment. She always wore a hair cover as she was married to a conservative man. She wore glasses that were too big for her as they covered some of her forehead. She was in her early 30’s but looked much older. She was covered with clothing even though it was summer out and sweat was forming on her forehead just around her glasses. At first she talked with my parents and set the expectations right. “He will have to practice at least four times a week” she said “each time has to be at least 30 minutes to actually get results”. “Uri is very committed to practicing” my mom said as I was nodding in agreement, trying to hide my excitement but still making sure my parents understand how serious I am.

Finally it was time to start the lesson. Mali was very meticulous and went over the basics before letting me stroke the first note. She talked very slowly and explained everything twice. We went over a few notes and by the end of the first lesson I managed to produce the sound of what was apparently an old folk’s song, even though it consisted of repeating the same three notes over and over again.

I promised to practice everyday and we scheduled lessons once a week at first. Every day after my parents got home from work they helped me strap on the accordion and I practiced my notes. I was highly dedicated for seven years old.  And so a few months went by and I was able to play many classical pieces. Mali was trained on a piano and then learnt other instruments. She was a big believer in classical music and didn’t like to play anything contemporary. That’s how I learned about Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and many other classic composers. I was far from being the cool kid on the accordion (if there’s such a thing) but I could care less at the time. Sure, I couldn’t take it anywhere, there were no one sitting around a bong fire and cheering me on as I let the accordion loose, but I was happy.

Even Mali, who at first didn’t talk about anything else but the music notes, started to open up a bit. She told me that she and her husband are trying to get pregnant, how sometimes she was frustrated with him and how she doubted her faith every now and then. I didn’t need to say anything; I just kept playing as she was talking. I think she felt like it was easier to share her thoughts with a seven years old rather than with anyone else that can judge her or give her their opinion. The music acted as a medicine for her and once I was able to play a whole concerto without her stopping to correct anything she felt free to rumble on.

After eight months I got tired. It was just like that. I woke up one morning and I didn’t want to play the accordion anymore. “I think I want to learn how to play the organ now” I told my parents as they looked at me in amazement. “But you are getting so good, why quit now” asked my dad. “I’m not quitting I’m just switching to a different instrument” I explained innocently as my dad added up the cost of a new organ in his head. By then my parents thought I was hooked, and if no recitals came out of it, at least I was developing incredible leg muscles for an eight years old just holding that accordion. 

Mali seemed to be disappointed that I decided to leave my accordion career behind me, but seemed pleased to know she will continue to be my organ teacher. And so at age eight, I retired my accordion in favor of a new and promising career as an organist. After all, I had eight months worth of experience on another instrument that will surely come in handy. Even as I kid, I knew I needed to diversify.

“So, what type of organ do you have in mind young man” the grinning salesman asked me. He must have thought that if I continue to play musical chairs (pun intended) with those instruments, I’ll be done with the drums, violin, trumpet and the entire orchestra section by the age of 15. He could see himself retire from sales to my family alone. I had no clue that there were different types to begin with; I just wanted an organ that looked cool. “The double deck one looks cool” I said. It was a humongous Yamaha organ that must have cost a fortune. 

At that point I had to promise my parents a two weeks “cooling off” period, meaning that if in two weeks I still think that all I need in this world is this organ, they’ll go ahead and get it. Little did they know that ever since I laid my eyes on that organ, my yearning to become a famous organist just grew each and every day.

We actually had to move some furniture around to accommodate the organ. The decision was made to fit it in my room which I shared with my brother who had high doubts about my success. Yuval was resistant to change even as a toddler so moving our bookcase out of the room in order to make room for the organ was a world changing event. An El-Nino of our own.

To everyone’s surprise, I got really good playing the organ. I practiced everyday and had a lesson with Mali once and sometimes twice a week. “He is as serious as an adult about this” said Mali to my parents who at that point were thrilled I was so dedicated, as they saw their investment making a decent return. After a couple of years I actually attempted to write my own music. It was an exercise that Mali believed will “get me more connected with music”. I wrote more than ten pages of music that was pretty basic, but nonetheless rather good for an eleven years old.

Mali kept gaining weight but never stopped talking about her hopes to become pregnant.

I finally met Mali’s husband one day. Eli decided to come upstairs with her so he could pray while the lesson was in progress. He was a tall man dressed in black with a thick beard and pierce blue eyes that looked kind, and were a total contrast to his stern appearance. As soon as he entered the room a strong stench of sweat spread through the room. He took off his long black coat and underneath he wore a white button down shirt that was almost completely covered in sweat. He held a couple of prayer books in his hands and kept staring at them. He didn’t look me in the eyes, just mumbled words I couldn’t understand. Eli used the little balcony right outside my room to pray and I was relieved as soon as he left the room. In the corner of my eye I could see him rocking back and forth as he prayed.

Slowly Eli became a permanent fixture during our lessons, as more often than not he would come upstairs with Mali. He would always mumble as he crossed my room into the balcony and then again on his way out, without saying a word to me. My parents didn’t seem to mind him as he was harmless, but I wasn’t sure that Mali enjoyed his presence as she stopped talking about her personal life and just concentrated on the music sheets.  

By the age of 13 and with almost five years of experience playing the organ, I started to divert my attention to other things such as girls, sports and other typical boy related matters. I wasn’t practicing as much anymore, I wasn’t eagerly awaiting each lesson, and my progress had slowed down. I got tired of playing classical music. It was around the time that Israeli TV finally started to broadcast more than one national channel. Cable television was like a small miracle, and it was MTV that caught my attention.

All of a sudden, playing the organ didn’t seem cool enough. “I was thinking about starting a band” I told my parents, who saw it coming. “Well, you can be the organist” said my dad, in a poor attempt to convince me to stick with playing the organ, but I was already dreaming about singing in front of thousands of cheering fans. I wanted to make music videos, and be the first break-through Israeli rock star on MTV.

Mali was saddened by the news of my career breaking decision. I promised to stay in touch and tell her all about my international fame once my band took off. I remember her walking down the stairs for the last time, right behind her husband, hiding her tears. I never heard from her again.


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