One of my favorite parts of writing Finding Love in Cannon Beach was giving Kadence and Foster a passion for the piano. Many of the characters I’ve written have loved music, but these two were my first characters who were wild about keys.
This was a special topic for me, because I’m a piano lover myself. I distinctly remember sitting at the old upright player piano in my parents’ living room, running my fingers over the bumpy keys, glue and broken ivories marking the keyboard. Like Kadence, I always wanted to make it through that one Franz Liszt song without flubbing it up. I could play the thing beautifully through the first page and part of the second before it got too complicated and my fingers would trip over each other. I still pull it out to this day, giving it noble attempt after noble attempt and getting nowhere.
Kadence wanted to be a concert pianist, but I never held those kinds of aspirations. I would have loved to further my music career after high school, although I never thought I was a virtuoso pianist. The closest I got was advancing to state competition, and it certainly never turned out to be glamorous.
The first year I advanced to state, I practiced a Clementi three-part sonatina until I knew it backwards and forwards. Spent time penciling in a number for each measure on the sheet music so the judge could follow along and let me know what I did wrong. (Tell me that isn’t a little frightening when you’re preparing for a performance.) Naturally I was nervous about the unknowns regarding the situation, but I never could have prepared for what actually happened.
Many of the vocal and instrumental performances were to take place in classrooms, but the piano performances were to take place in an auditorium. On a stage. Black grand piano. It was the stuff of dreams that I had only imagined in the tiny town where I lived.
I waited patiently for my turn, listening to talented musicians take their own turns at the instrument. Finally, they called my name. I still remember the way it felt to walk up the steps onto that stage, smoothing my dress down as I sat on the piano bench. Leaning back, I looked down at the pedals and positioned my feet. Then, the judge nodded and told me to proceed. Taking a deep breath, I started playing the song exactly the way I’d practiced it countless times.
My performance lasted until approximately measure twenty before the judge began clapping. Not excited, you’re the best pianist I’ve ever heard clapping. Rude clapping, like Simon Cowell cutting off a horrible singer on American Idol. My heart sank, because I knew I wasn’t perfect, but was I that bad? Really?
Staring at the judge, I waited with my breath held to see what words he had to offer. He’d only wanted me to begin my warm-up, he stated. He wasn’t ready for my performance yet.
I wish I could tell you that I knocked that one out of the park. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the rest of that day except the heat in my cheeks and my desperate attempt to play the song with trembling fingers. But I didn’t give up. I came back the next year with another Clementi song, and then played Debussy in my third year (my personal favorite). The fourth and final year, my last shot at the elusive rating I wanted, my piano teacher told me to play Creston. It was a fast, loud, bang on the piano crazy song. They would be so impressed they wouldn’t hear if I messed up, she said.
So in my final competitive performance, that’s what I did. Banged on the piano for a few minutes. It was completely uncharacteristic and didn’t match my personality, but I finally got the rating I wanted. And at least that time the clapping was real.
USA Today bestselling author Christina Coryell was born and raised in southwest Missouri, where she lives with her husband and two children. She had plenty of people tell her that her degree in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing would be useless. They were probably right. Added to her dual major in History, she became the least likely candidate for nearly every career on the planet, save being a writer. That suits her just fine.
Christina has written from the back hatch of an SUV, in a lawn chair while at soccer practice, in the front seat of her car, with kids climbing on her, and often with extremely loud noise in the background. At least half of her books have been written during baseball games.
She believes great fiction mirrors life, and great life contains a little humor, so it’s difficult not to sprinkle a little funny business throughout her work. Oh…and character is everything.
Learn more about Christina at christinacoryell.com