As a child I had no beliefs. I lived by what was repeatedly dictated to me by my parents and my piano instructor. Things were either black or white, either I was wrong or I was right. My piano instructor sat me in front of the piano keys every Thursday, saying: “Play me a chromatic scale,” I simply obeyed and played. She became angry if I missed a note and would make me play the scale until it was perfect; somehow, I could never get it quite right. For eight years, I believed what others told me to and never questioned them. I believed in a black and white world where I saw no shades of grey because, to me, they didn’t exist.
I had my first head-on collision with grey in the fourth grade. I had joined the chorus and found that there too I had to warm up with that dreadful chromatic scale. If the teacher would have let me drop out, I gladly would have done so; except she wouldn’t allow it. Three weeks later I was standing by the piano, singing “Down by the Bay” while she accompanied me. Her hands suddenly smashed into the piano keys and images of Beethoven flashed through my mind as she declared: “Your voice can have more than one sound, and I don’t mean note wise. I mean tone.” Odd, I thought, but interesting. By taking her advice, I learned to appreciate music and art from new angles. I had found my grey.
For the remaining two years of elementary school, I remained in the chorus, learning to control the tone of my voice and finding grey in the very places I thought it couldn’t exist. But, I did not realize until I entered the orchestra that colors existed behind the grey. My teacher was a perfectionist. “Play it right,” he always said, “or we play it again.” I became annoyed, and found myself disagreeing with him constantly on the way he told us to play; eventually I built up courage to talk to him after class and ask him why there was only one was to play “Jingle Bells.” Reeling with laughter, he brought out a copy of the music and pointed a million ways to play it but the composer had left absolutely no room for interpretation so we were limited to play it just the way we had been. Disagreeing, I brought out my violin and showed him that the song could sound happier if only it was quicker. He smiled secretly, letting me know I was right. Through orchestra class, I found a whole spectrum of colors hiding behind the black dots on the pages, and everywhere else too. All I had to do was look.
As time goes on, I purposely search for the hidden colors and other ways to broaden not only my mind, but the minds of others, because I believe that an open mind can find colors in the bleakest of times.
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