In the last post I talked about the first reason I have been so emotional this week: SO much gratitude! And part of that gratitude spills right into the second reason I was so emotional last week: my sister came to the rescue for Lucy. She taught her her first lesson to learn to play the piano by ear as she works her heart out to learn piano songs with severe vision loss.

Vision Loss and Playing the Piano

Let’s back up and set the stage. There are lots of aspects of losing your vision that are pretty heartbreaking. Sometimes you don’t know what they’ll be until you are in the middle of them. During the last few weeks, that heartbreak for Lucy has landed on playing the piano. Or maybe the worry that she can’t learn by herself to play the piano. She was so worried (like keep-you-up-at-night worry) because her dear teacher who hand-enlarges all her music for her, had simplified the last couple songs she had taught her.

And Lucy is no dummy. She listens to songs with her “super-hearing,” and believe me, she knows what the introductions are. She knows where the complicated parts are. And she knew some of those were missing.

Now, the average person may be thankful for that little help of simplification. I personally will take “simplified” any day I tell you! But Lucy is not the “average person.” She’s a girl who does not want people to take it easy on her just because she can’t see very well. Bring on the tough stuff for that girl! She thrives on figuring out how to move those fingers and make that beautiful music. So, because her teacher had simplified a couple songs (to make them 20 pages long rather than 30…those big notes take up LOTS of room!), she simply “couldn’t be trusted” in Lucy’s opinion. And she was determined that she needed to find a way to sight-read so she could be the judge of whether or not that music was simplified.

Vision Loss Necessitates a whole new way to learn to play the piano

The problem is that Lucy is having trouble seeing even the huge notes her teacher draws for her. We looked up all kinds of visual aids. Her Braille teacher sent us some resources. We found some clip-on magnifiers. There’s a program on an iPad that connects to a foot-pedal that helps you move the music along on the iPad using high-contrast notes. There are some cool things on the market, that’s for sure.

But unfortunately none of those will work for Lucy. She just can’t see enough to have them help her at the level of piano she plays now. There are too many notes. Any screen would be too small. Her eyesight is unfortunately too deteriorated.

The thing I love so much about Lucy is that she knows how to maneuver dead ends. She was determined to find something that would help her learn to play her favorite songs in spite of her eyesight. And therefore keep her love of the piano. She needs the piano!

learning to play piano by ear

That’s the point where my sister came in this weekend (remember she was in town for my Mom’s birthday celebration).

I had spilled out our worries earlier in the weekend. And Saydi took it on herself to take some time with Lucy to teach her some things. I think we’d all agree that she is the most musical in our family (and she has helped all her kids have become pretty great musicians themselves). She also claims to be the “favorite aunt” (ha!) so of course Lucy already adores her (which is important if she was really going to listen).

Those two took some time to delve into the magic of piano chords.

She explained to Lucy that if you know the chords, you can learn to play just about anything.

She taught her a few songs, and took some time to help her learn what it means to play by ear, helping her learn skips and octaves in a whole new way.

We also were able to explain a little better that there’s not one version of a song. People arrange songs in all kinds of ways, and learning to play by ear will help her the very most if she really wants to learn songs just how she hears and loves them.

You could almost see the worry and angst melting away as Lu listened and learned.

She didn’t come out of that as a piano prodigy, of course.

But as Saydi worked with her, it was pretty beautiful how HOPE started to fill into that girl of mine.

Hope is a pretty beautiful thing.

Saydi taught her some “keys.” And we’re all hoping those keys will lead Lucy to keep that beloved piano at the top of her skills she loves so much.

You can see her joy in this picture I snapped real quick after dinner with everyone else:

Yes, there is always a way to find hope, right?

And that second reason I was so blubbery this week is this, right here:

I bawled my eyes out en route home from the airport after I dropped off those sisters of mine. I was just so grateful for them in so many ways. But especially for this seed that was planted in my daughter’s heart to help her learn and grow more. A seed that I couldn’t plant on my own. Sometimes deeply needed “answers” come from “your village,” not your mom and dad.

And I’m just so grateful for those in our “village” who love and adore my children in myriads of ways. And that Saydi took time to teach and love my daughter in such a tangible, incredibly beautiful way.

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  1. I’m so very happy for Lucy, she loves music and the piano and the important thing is she can carry on playing. My middle daughter doesn’t have any of Lucy’s difficulties but she was bored with learning the piano the traditional way because, as she said, she didn’t want to be a concert pianist, she was never going to be good enough to be a concert pianist, she just wanted to play her favourite songs. Her piano teacher listened and taught her to play chords and by ear after that and it meant she was able to accompany herself as she sang her favourite songs. No more music to read, no more scales etc, just pure joy in playing and being able to entertain others. I wish Lucy the same joy on her journey.

  2. That is beautiful! And that last picture you can see the hope and a bit of peace in Lucy’s face! It really does take a village! God does hear our prayers!

  3. Amazing! Well done, Saydi and Lucy. An interesting podcast idea: how you are able to help/support each other and your families while also being busy with your immediate family.

    1. Great idea. This gets so tricky when you have so many of your own family demands, but such a beautiful way to share love!

  4. The organist in our ward is blind from birth and plays every Sunday and I have never heard her make a mistake! She accompanies the choir on the piano as well. I am in awe of her skills. The has also started learning how to play the hard. It’s amazing what people can accomplish!
    Margaret Sargent, Salt Lake City

  5. Have you thought about finding a music teacher with experience teaching the blind? You live in a large metropolitan area, so it shouldn’t be too difficult. Learning piano by ear or rote is not unusual. And Lucy has a leg up having had the foundation of traditional piano training thus far. Music theory can build off of intervals (or “skips” :)) and might be a nice supplement to piano.

  6. Um excuse me. I’m the favourite aunt. But you did good Saydi. Just stay humble … I’ll always be the favourite 😉

  7. The photo with your post really touched me. It wasn’t until seeing it a second time that I saw you in the mirror…and in that moment I saw me! The mom who prays and works for her children, who celebrates (and documents) the successes, who grieves the struggles and who is so very grateful for other good people brought into our children’s lives to lift and shape them. For me it is the portrait of a devoted mother. ❤️❤️

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