When I was little, I took piano lessons. I started at age 9, and continued through high school. For those nine years, nothing in the world could faze me when my fingers touched those smooth, slick keys. To this day, memories of playing duets with my grandmother sitting beside me, or of playing whichever piece struck my fancy while my parents prepared dinner still run through my head from time to time. Had I not started playing the piano my life would have taken a dramatically different path. Music has driven me to take risks that I would not have otherwise taken.

Strangely enough, it’s an escape mechanism for me. Many nights, while cramming for an exam, I have lost myself in “Polynesian Nocturne” or “Nights in Spain” and momentarily forgotten about the pending doom coming the next morning. Had I not started playing the piano, what thoughts would I use to get away from that stress?

Even as a child, I used to come home from school and play for an hour or so before I started my homework. Yes, there were times when I had to practice a certain exercise over and over and over again to get it right, and yes, it did get frustrating at times, but I worked at it. After all, it was better than sitting down to a page full of algebra. Had I not started playing the piano, what would I do to burn time before attempting homework?

The one thing that I didn’t fully realize as a young girl was that I had something that I excelled at, and that was special. I had friends who were jocks and friends whose sole purpose in life was to have as many friends as possible, and for some reason I always strove to be like them – to a point. It got tiring, and the only thing I really enjoyed was playing the piano. In the end, I always had my piano lessons to feel good about. Had I not started playing the piano, I would have exhausted myself trying to be like the cool kids.

Somewhere around my freshman or sophomore year of high school, I found myself at a crossroads. I could be a rebel, refusing to follow in my mother’s footsteps and never sing in a four-part harmony chorus and quartet, or I could suck it up, cake on the layers of hideous orange face makeup and fluorescent pink and blue eye shadow, drown myself in sequins and see where it took me.

Such a decision would have amounted to social suicide in some circles, but it was with this decision that I finally woke up. I didn’t have to model my life around what I thought the popular girls would approve of. Besides, I had my musical background already. If I didn’t like singing, I could always go back to the piano bench.

Ultimately, it was the piano lessons that gave me the confidence and courage to buck the trend. I finally had a truly unique hobby: I was a Sweet Adelines singer. Nobody else in the whole school could say that.

To this day, I am still surprised every time at people’s reactions when I talk about my experience with the Sweet Adelines organization. I hesitate to reveal the intimate details of the tedious task of gluing on false eyelashes, lest they think I’m a closet freak with a sideshow on the weekends, yet when they hear about what it’s like to face an audience from the stage with full lights, they are amazed, enthusiastic and immediately enthralled. I always expect them to either laugh hysterically, look at me cross-eyed or run away in horror, but by the end of the conversation, I have them eating out of the palm of my hand. Would I have found the courage to talk about Sweet Adelines without the confidence that playing the piano as a child built?

I found coolness and popularity by accident. It took me a while, but it sure as hell beats blending in. Unless it’s blending in the hideous orange face makeup.

Kelly Cope is a journalism senior and Mustang Daily staff writer.

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