bucket list . . .

piano music library

piano music library

I guess this term was coined along with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman’s movie called “The Bucket List,” which dramatized what they really wanted to experience before they kicked the bucket (aka “die”.) Since then, it’s been used a lot in different contexts and I noticed today in the newspaper that a sister graduating from college, delighted by her soldier brother’s surprise appearance said that she wanted to make a “bucket list” with him before he returns to duty in a couple of weeks.

So, making a list like this is not just for the elderly or even the middle-aged these days. For me, when I think about it, it’s not filled with things like “win the lottery” or “travel around the world” or even, “go to Hawaii.” It also wouldn’t include “buy a Corvette” or “own a sailboat.”

One of the things that was always on my bucket list (even before the phrase was coined) was a beautiful ebony Steinway grand piano. While I was a young mother, working two jobs in NYC and taking care of two infants, nothing was further from my mind, although I did manage to buy a brown baby grand piano, a “McPhail” piano that had a bright tone and a light action. That was the first piano I owned since I left home, leaving behind a well-worn Cable-Nelson spinet piano that I grew up with. So you can see why a Steinway ebony grand piano was truly out of reach for me at the time.

Fast forward to trading in the McPhail piano to a building contractor who put in the foundation for our greenhouse in Lexington when we renovated the house where the kids grew up. Eventually, I bought a Steinway, model A piano (reconditioned but not refinished) which I played and my daughter M. practiced on for many years, playing a Bach French Suite as musically as any pianist I’ve ever heard when she was in junior high school. The girls used to read and lie under the piano with our dog, Bridget, when I practiced. They still recall chamber music parties where a string quartet played Mozart in the family room while a piano trio read through Beethoven’s “Archduke” trio in the living room with the doors shut in between. Sometimes we would combine forces and play piano quintets, such as Schubert’s “Trout Quintet” and when we had a lot of players, we’d end up playing Mendelssohn’s Octet. It was so much fun for all concerned, players and listeners alike, not to mention the potluck food we feasted on afterwards with a few bottles of wine.

Fast forward some more to after the kids left home and I moved to where I live now. I traded in the Steinway “A’ for a Steinway “B” when I met my second husband, G. who rebuilt it. We named it “Victor” after the musician who had owned it previously. It has been and continues to be one of the finer instruments that have come through the shop. It used to be downstairs on the first floor where predictably, piano customers would happen upon it and want to buy it. So we hoisted it up to the third floor where we live, coming through the house from the outside deck. It sits in an alcove that enhances its sound without echoes.

"Victor" in the alcove

“Victor” in the alcove


So, you see, I’ve already got the best part of a bucket list I might have held secret. What I’ve been thinking about more recently, is repertoire or pieces I would like to learn as part of a “to-do” bucket list. They include Scarlatti sonatas (about two dozen of them), Bach Goldberg Variations, Rachmaninoff Preludes, some Scriabin and Chopin Etudes. Like that.

Still on the list is to write a women’s novel that will eventually become a classic (that part is out of my control but writing it first might help.) I’ve been working on shaping ideas into a plot for a long time. Recently, a new setting for the story has occurred to me that has renewed my optimism about getting back to work on it.

So, studying a challenging piano repertoire and writing a book I’ve been thinking about for a long time probably sound like a pretty boring bucket list to most folks. At least it doesn’t require loads of money to bring to fruition. It just requires self-discipline, dedication, creativity and time. That’s all, right?

What’s on your bucket list?