I have little choice in the location of the piano for my volunteer gigs. If I don’t like the direction the piano faces—because I’d be playing with my back to the audience—I’m usually allowed to turn it around. (That’s a heavy job. Good thing I stay in shape.) Other than that, things stay where they are.
If I bring my keyboard instead, I have more flexibility. Still, I need to select a spot with enough space and enough light, and with access to an electrical outlet. The day that outlet happened to be right next to Enid’s seat, she was not happy about it.
On a recent Wednesday, I lugged my keyboard and stand and assorted paraphernalia to a rehab center to play during lunch. Enid was already sitting at her preferred table, unaware there was music on the agenda. As I busied myself with cords and cables, she spoke up. “What are YOU doing?”
“I’m going to play some music.”
“Well then I’m moving to a different table. I have to go as far away from you as I can.”
Then she seemed to remember her manners. “It’s not that I don’t like the music. But it makes me nervous.”
Hmmm. Maybe her hearing aid distorted the sound? Or perhaps she has misophonia and music is one of her triggers? Those are topics I’ll be writing about in future posts.
Dissonant music puts me on edge, but the genre I play for senior audiences is hardly that: “Red Sails in the Sunset,” “Moonlight Serenade,” “The Very Thought of You.” And volume shouldn’t be a problem. When I’m there to provide background music, as I was that day, I play softly to allow for conversation in the room.
I didn’t get a chance to talk to Enid about the unfortunate effect my music has on her. Before I played a single note, she retreated to a table across the room.
Enid is part of a handful of people I’ve run across as a volunteer pianist who do not want me there. They can be a vocal few, some more polite than others.
In his autobiography*, actor Charles Grodin told this story:
Candy Bergen and I were filming the movie 11 Harrowhouse in a castle outside London. We were sitting in a room off the main hall where the cameras were being set up. After a few minutes an Englishwoman appeared. I don’t know who she was, but she acted as though she had a duchess-or-something title. She said: “Did someone ask you to wait in here?” “No,” we answered, a bit taken aback. She responded: “Well, it would be so nice if you weren’t here.”
That’s a brand of rejection I can live with.
Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.
*It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here: My Journey through Show Business, Morrow, 1989.