Off Key

                               By Phil Scovell

          I began playing the piano at age seven.   I had to get up an half
     an  hour early  so I  could get  my practice time  in before  going to
     school.  Many times  I remember trying to read the notes  and  see the
     keys through blurry morning vision.  I played on an old, and I do mean
     old, upright piano.

          My dad, who was still living at that time, was a  good carpenter.
     Over a  period of several  weeks, he was able  to remove all  the dark
     ugly chipped black paint surface.  He repainted it with a light blonde
     color and then installed some fancy  mirrors about six or seven inches
     tall  which  went around  the  entire top  of  the  piano.   It  was a
     beautiful piece of  furniture by the time he finished.  There was only
     one  problem.   As pretty  as  it looked,  it sounded  terrible.   The
     sounding board was cracked, we were told, and it could not be properly
     tuned under any circumstances.   The piano served  its purpose and  we
     owned  it for  many  years and  thousands of  hours  of practice  were
     conducted by my older sisters  and myself as well as  my mom.  In  all
     the years  we owned it,  that piano had  been moved to  four different
     homes, in two different states, and survive.

          As  I aged,  so did our  piano.   by the time  I was  in my early
     teens,  I  was taking  lessons  from  a  college music  professor  and
     learning a  lot.  I  was required to practice  a minimum of  six and a
     half hours a week.   I enjoyed it and often practiced  longer than the
     weekly requirement.

          During these  years, the  piano was beginning  to show  its wear.
     Unfortunately for me, one of the keys ceased  functioning right in the
     middle  octave  of  the  instrument.    It  didn't  create  a  problem
     performing all my top to bottom scales, but when I had to practice the
     songs I  had learned, the missing key, or  the key that wouldn't play,
     caused a great deal of irritation.  So, to  solve the problem, I began
     playing all my songs  an octave higher.   Try and not get ahead  of my
     story here.

          Finally the big day came.   Although I was only 14 years old,  my
     piano  teacher  taught  at  a  nearby Christian  Bible  college.    He
     requested that I play one of my songs at a Friday night concert  being
     held in the school music hall.  I was more than a little nervous about
     it but said I would play.

          When it was my turn, I  walked to the piano and sat down.   I had
     practiced on the  beautiful grand piano already  so I was used  to its
     touch and sound.  I am not a musician, I don't have perfect pitch, and
     I cannot just sit down at  the piano and play any song I  hear like my
     wife does.   I  love piano,  however, but one  thing, especially  when
     playing before an audience, that has always  been a problem for me, is
     starting out by  finding middle C  as a reference.   I never  had this
     problem at home, of course, but in front of crowd?   Every time.  this
     time would be no different.

          As I began to play, I instantly realized I was an  octave higher.
     This  was normal  at  home  but not  here,  definitely  not here,  and
     definitely  not now  with all  these professionals listening  to every
     note.   I thought  about dropping down  an octave  but I  already felt
     ridiculously conspicuous so the last thing I wanted to do is draw more
     attention to myself.  So, I  finished my piece one octave higher  than
     normal and prayed no one noticed.   Fat chance!

          After the  concert, the other  music professor, a much  older man
     who could not  hear what you  were saying to  him three feet  away but
     could hear  a wrong  note played  in a piece  on the  other side  of a
     massive  ampletorium  that  could  seat  30,000  people,  came  up  to
     compliment me.  I knew better based upon  his ear for music.  He was a
     very kind soft  spoken man and  I always admired and  liked him.   His
     piano playing  was out of  this world, too.   Fortunately, however, he
     wasn't the first in line.

          After every other student  had come and congratulated me on a job
     well done,  tongue in cheek, the  old music professor strolled  up and
     shook my hand.  He commented on how well I had done but I knew the old
     man knew the truth.   He finally quietly,  so no one else could  hear,
     said, "You played an octave  higher, son.  Didn't you?"  I  told him I
     did realize that but  was too embarrassed to explain my  own piano was
     missing a note in the middle of the piano and so I was used to playing
     one octave higher.  He probably just  figured it was due to the fact I
     was blind so that's likely why I skipped telling him the truth.  Oddly
     enough, this  same elderly man,  would later become my  piano teacher,
     when four years later, I enrolled in the same Bible college.

          Did  this little  childhood story  strike a  familiar cord,  in a
     manner of speaking, in your heart?  Have you experienced embarrassment
     but were helpless to do anything about it?  Have you made any mistakes
     that exposed you  to chagrin?  Have you  screwed up so badly  that you
     were embarrassed to  tears and crying made  you feel even worse?   Sit
     down and list all such events  in your life.  When you  have finished,
     offer them  up to the  Lord and commit  them to Him.   He died  on the
     cross with  all of those  things which He bore  in your behalf.   This
     means,  of  course, you  need not  carry  the pain  and hurt  of these
     feelings any  longer.   Let  Jesus do  His job  and  you just  concern
     yourself with knowing Him.

     Safe Place Fellowship
     Phil Scovell
     Denver, Colorado
     Mountain Time Zone

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