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Chuck Hinman, IJMA No. 114 : Music in My Life

It's Just Me Again. No. 144 Music in My Life.
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The next previous Chuck Hinman column, Chuck Hinman: IJMA No. 099: Help for Visually Impaired Dummy

By Chuck Hinman

Many people who haven't known me long ask when I became interested in keyboard music. I assume they ask because it is unusual to find an 85 year old man still "tickling the ivories." To make things worse, I arrogantly wear a T-shirt given me by good friend Orva Lee Brown that boasts "88 keys -- 10 fingers -- NO PROBLEM!"

The most asked question is "When did you start playing?" I don't know the exact age but probably when I was 6 or 7 years old.

Mom played the piano and determined that her kids were going to play the piano "or else." We had a big old "clunker" piano that was never tuned. Tuning a piano in those days cost too much! Years later when people asked me if a certain piano needed tuning, I had to admit I hadn't a clue; I never knew what a tuned piano sounded like. Our piano had a "loose" action. In years to come, whenever I played a fine piano like a Steinway, I longed for our old "loosey-goosey" piano. It was a breeze to play in comparison.

Over the years I only had three teachers -- Mrs. Cranell and Verneil Griffin in Blue Springs, Nebraska and Auntie Grace Allington -- my dad's sister. She had a music degree from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska. Even though my lessons with Auntie Grace were sporadic depending on whether she was living in Glendale, California or Wymore, Nebraska, I credit her with drilling me on the basics so that in future years I could play with the "best of em" mostly because I was expert at "reading music." My expertise over the years has been as an accompanist rather than a soloist. Many have complimented me as the best accompanist they ever had. I accept that and will "bust a gut" to make them sound great -- the job of any accompanist worth their salt!

I became our church pianist (Liberty, Nebraska Congregational church) when I was 10 years old. I served as a church pianist-organist for 75 years. I resigned this year after macular degeneration robbed me of my eyesight.

Strangely, I can play as well as I ever did; I just can't see to read the music. The only songs I can play now are songs I have committed to memory and unfortunately that was not one of my strengths -- it didn't have to be.

Now, I have a huge library of music that is obsolete to me because I can no longer see it to play it.

Some of the highlights of my musical career other than as church musician are these:
- The Hinman brothers, Bob and Chuck playing piano duets when they weren't duking it out with their fists.

- Winning a coveted "Highly Superior" award over 35 high school piano soloists in the 1939 MINK music contest. I played the very difficult "Hungarian Rhapsody No 2" by Franz Liszt. That song became my trademark song that everyone in southeast Nebraska wanted to hear that "piano wizard farm kid" play. It even catapulted me to be in the stable of young musicians who helped Hugh Munson win when he ran for Superintendent of Schools of Gage County, Nebraska at Beatrice, Nebraska.
  1. - I was pianist for the Peru State Teacher's College dance band, the Bobcats.

  2. - I was pianist for the ASTP (military) dance band at Montana State College in Bozeman, Montana.

  3. - I was accompanist for the Philtones, very popular public relations arm of Phillips Petroleum Company.

  4. - I was accompanist for 2 men's gospel quartets, the Phil-4 of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and The Delegates of Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.

  5. - I was long-time accompanist for popular local entertainer Paul Biggs.

  6. - I was accompanist many years at the annual Cowboy Camp Meeting at Lenapah, Oklahoma.
I gave piano lessons when I was a high school student. I rode my bike and received 50 cents per lesson. Later I gave organ lessons. My son Paul was my best organ student and gets my musical equipment and music library when I am "out of here!"

One of my highest honors was when I accompanied my son Paul, Sooner High School Oklahoma All State trumpeter, in a music contest in Norman, Oklahoma, in which he won a coveted Superior award. Most of the trumpeters were accompanied by talented high school musicians but Paul chose his very proud Dad as his accompanist.

But the cream of all accompanist jobs was those weekly vocal lessons when our daughter Mary Ann was under the tutelage of "pro" Anita Woodring. Mary Ann took her life recently and now sings accompanied by an angelic choir of harpists.

I have left instructions with son Paul that my final concert will be at my funeral at New Harmony Baptist Church (time to be announced later). Selected numbers from my CD -- "I'll Fly Away" will be played on the church PA system at the beginning and close of the service.

In closing I express special thanks to my precious Mom whose determination that I was going to play the piano "or else" paid off. I doubt if she had in mind that I would even play at "my" funeral! ENUF IS ENUF!

And last of all, thanks be to God who enabled me all these years -- "To God be the glory, GREAT THINGS HE HAS DONE!"

Written by Chuck Hinman, 10-25-07

This story was posted on 2011-11-08 09:47:41
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