Monday, May 3, 2010

A Piano that was Grand

Walking through the main building of campus, one sees the President's Office, the Mail Room, Academic something or other all brought together by a cold hallway, the floor a series of laminated squares exacly the same. Step. Step. Step. It's institutional in its very monotony. However, there's a coffee shop and small store, bright rooms, soft lounge couches, and in the sterile lobby a grand piano, covered with a purple cloth, saving it from dust and debris that blows in with the hourly rush of students hurrying from one building to another. The rumor is that the Vice President likes music. I learned that indeed it is true when he caught me singing while I walked down the hallway. A small world - he has a son studying at The University of Pennsylvania Law School and another one who is at Berkely. Small world, indeed.

The second floor of this building has a loft type half wall that looks down onto the lobby, and it is on this floor that the faculty lounge is located. The computers are slow, the coffee is burned, but it has one truly redeeming factor - it is the warmest place in the building thanks to a kerosene heater that spits out heat (and odor) to keep our stiff fingers supple.

After midterm week, I found myself alone in the lounge listing grades. I followed the university prescribed formula, shaking the rusty equations from the back of my mind, contemplating mean, median, and mode. My university statistics lessons were taunting me. Soon, I was immersed in the numbers and putting grades to names when a sound wafted into my conciousness, shaking my concentration, and I realized it was someone playing the piano.

This is not some common occurrence. And this is not Chopsticks. I don't know what the piece was, but I snuck out and peered over the wall to see a student, t-shirt and faded jeans unselfconciously playing something haunting and gentle. I stood mesmerized that this young man, and indeed he was young, could play a tune that pulled at the very heartstrings of an old cynic like me. He played until he finished, his fingers lingering for just a moment on the keys. I held my breath hoping he would begin a new tune, but he had other plans. Picking up his cell phone, reading a text message, he left, just another student in t-shirt and faded jeans having warmed our building with not just music but with a sense of wonder.


*photo is from the internet. (I gotta buy a camera.)

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