grandpa's piano


I love this old out-of-tune piano….

I fell in love with it when I was little. I’d go to Grandma and Grandpa Cunningham’s house and listen to Grandpa play. He was self-taught and couldn’t play anything fancy but that didn’t matter.

He would play and sing little ditties he had picked up over the years. I would sit on his lap, put my hands on his hands, and pretend it was me playing. There was nothing in the world like sitting at Grandpa’s piano. 

Within a couple of years my parents bought me a piano and I started taking lessons. Oh, geez I hated lessons…I hated reading NOTES. I just wanted to listen to the radio and try to play by ear. I loved that.

A few years later I got in my first band. We learned the music by taping a song when the DJ played it on the radio (I’m really dating myself by saying “taping” and “DJ”). Then we would listen over and over. Play, stop, rewind. Play, stop, rewind.

I remember someone telling me to listen to the bass line and it would tell me how the chord progression went. That was the key!

I went on to other bands after that first one. Then studied music and music therapy in college. Now I have been a music therapist 32 years, and a music therapy professor for 25 years. And my lifelong love affair with music (and the piano) continues every day.

Grandpa’s piano was the start of it all. I wish every kid had one.


You’ve Got a Friend….A Natural Woman…Will You Love Me Tomorrow…The Loco-Motion…

These songs are a big part of the soundtrack of my childhood. And they were written (or co-written) by Carole King.

I was a little girl when the “Tapestry” album came out…what a HUGE record it was and still IS. Not only was the music fantastic, but it was a WOMAN songwriter, singing her own songs. And…playing the piano.

I found a resonance with her music. Her style of playing, the warmth of her voice, the melodies and real-life lyrics (which meant more to me later…after I hit adolescence!) Her voice is raw and real; so expressive and emotive. Her chord choices are like a warm blanket on a chilly winter day. I don’t know how else to describe them…they just feel so perfect and comforting.

I started to say that I like her style of playing because it’s similar to mine. But who am I kidding?? I like her style of playing because I’ve been trying to emulate it all these years. It suits me and feels authentic to who I am probably because I’ve listened to her so much!

Some of the songs she wrote were very bold for their time. Like “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”. It was banned from radio for a time because of the suggestion of a sexual encounter in the lyrics. Wow…how times have changed.

And, she was 17 when she wrote that song (OK Gerry Goffin wrote the lyrics, but come on! a 17 year old wrote that music!!). Lemme just say…Carole King is Queen!

Would someone just give her a crown, please?? She IS the queen of women songwriters/performers to me. I have lots of others I admire, but she is at the top of the list.

I want to be like her… I want to write great songs that move people. I want little girls (and women) to hear themselves in my lyrics and be inspired by seeing me perform now that I’m not a spring chicken. I want my music to still be moving people long after I’m gone.

So this week I’m going to spend a little time studying her songs again. And maybe I’ll write one that is a tribute to her. Long live the Queen! 

Check out this Rolling Stone article: “10 songs you didn’t know Carole King wrote”