Pianist or Organist?

Several years ago a friend asked if I considered myself to be an organist or a pianist. He explained his observation that most people, even if capable of playing both instruments, will generally favor one over the other. I think it kind of goes along with the verse in the Bible that says “No one can serve two masters.”

At the time I was still trying to get my feet to ‘disconnect’ from my left hand. The mental energy expended in practicing a hymn in my early organ days was tremendous. About three weeks into my organ training I got so frustrated with the whole independence of line concept that I got off the organ bench in the middle of my practice and went over to the piano to play the piece, just to remind myself that I actually still could produce something that sounded somewhat musical. As my hands touched the keys (look, 88, all in one row, just like they should be!) I felt that I was back with an old friend again. Ah, the comfort and familiarity of the sustain pedal. I was certain I was doomed to be a pianist.

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but somehow things changed.

Recently, when the Primary needed a last-minute sub, I slid onto the piano bench and scanned through the first song. As I quickly prepared for sight-reading the unfamiliar piece I made a mental note of the pattern of large intervals in the bass clef. “No problem,” I thought. “I can get this one with the right foot and this one with the left.” As I continued with my quick analyzation I suddenly realized there were only three pedals under my feet. And not one of them was going to make any sound at all. Panic!

Then there was the time I was recruited as a pinch-hitter pianist in Relief Society. I thought I got ‘back in the saddle’ quite quickly. Seriously, I impressed myself with how easily I could go between organ and piano. I did so well through the whole hymn. Not one thumb glissando. And I remembered to play those bass notes with my fingers. By the time I was on the last verse I was thinking I could be an organist and a pianist. Final chord. Perfect. Then—I took my hands off the keyboard and ruined it all. Without even thinking, my right hand reached under the keyboard. As my fingers slid across the smooth wood frame in search of the General Cancel button I realized it was true. No one can serve two masters.

I am an organist.

And it feels good!


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