Bin Fan, San Jose, California

“I’m 37 years old. I had a keyboard when I was 5. My parents took me to take some lessons for maybe a couple months. I don’t remember what I learned or why I quit. I can’t say that I always wanted to restart piano, at least not consciously. I did not have too much appreciation about music during my childhood or grown-up time. I don’t listen to much pop music, and I knew only a few classical musicians just as a regular educated adult.

This had been the case until I got a new job, which involves a lot of pressure and long work hours. After about a year or so, I felt very depressed. I thought I needed to grab something. I decided to enroll in the Mission College piano class in the summer of 2019 at the last minute. I wasn’t sure if that was a good idea and thought about retracting my application several times.

I finally went to the first class. The teacher was a very nice lady. She was 74. She shared with us the story that she used to learn piano when she was 7 but had to stop as a foster child and resumed to learn piano in her 30s. This inspired me and I wanted to give it a try.

The class was for zero-experience adults. We started from the basic notes and rhythms and very simple pieces, which was just about right for me. After about a month the teacher thought I could handle harder pieces, so she gave me the most famous Minuet in G from Bach’s notebook to his wife Anna. I immediately loved the piece and practiced it over and over. By the end of the summer class I could finally do it.

The Minuet in G piece was not just a hook for me to keep playing, but also opened a whole new Bach world. I did not know any of Bach’s pieces before. I looked for his works and listened to them at work or before sleep. He wrote so many pieces, and so many pianists had their own interpretations. You always find new surprises and never get bored. I keep adding new pieces to my favorite ones. The latest is Goldberg Variations 30, which is the last variation if we don’t count the reappearance of the aria. I love both Glenn Gold’s and Xiao-Mei Zhu’s performance. Bach put two German folk songs: “I’ve been away from home for so long” and “Cabbages and Turnips” in this variation. I’m touched every time I listen to it. It makes me think about the fact that I was away from my parents for so long.

I’m studying from a great piano teacher now and learning a lot of great pieces from many different composers. As she said, each piece is like a gift, some make you happy when you play, some lead you to another new world. For me, there is no reason why I like music nor does it mean anything concrete for me. I just appreciate it as anything else that is beautiful and fulfilling.”

— Bin Fan, San Jose, California

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