In Knorr Dining Hall, there is a piano near the stage over by the door. It’s a standard upright piano that used to be played on Sundays, but has lately sat silently. Now students should pick up the slack and perform for their peers because there’s so much talent at Hillsdale College.
The piano during brunch is the most important distinguishing factor of the meal. Music separates Sunday brunch from Saturday brunch because it’s just so — extra. It adds to the abundance of dessert and students dressed in church clothes and forms that extra layer of class that is still what distinguishes the upper crust from the rest of the world.
In other words, as badly as I want it, it’s not like we need it.
But maybe we do: I don’t know about you, but I seem to forget the incredible amount of homework that I’ve put off until Sunday as soon as I walk in and hear the piano. There is a great calming effect that the piano has over my restless, procrastinating soul. I suddenly realize that despite the fact I still have to do all the research and write 15 pages that afternoon, there is still beauty in the world.
There is a reminder in every note why I study English: It’s beautiful, and it has a purpose, just like the music from that old upright in the middle of Saga.
And in a school where so many people are wicked good at piano, someone with the skill and the inclination is ought to show off their skills and grace our ears just as the apple-cinnamon scones grace our stomachs (scones have a very clear purpose).
This line of thinking might lead any student who has training in piano to attempt to present their performance, but that’s not what I’m saying either.
I have experienced when someone didn’t know how to play, and it made everything worse: The food lost its flavor, the studying got harder, talking was a strain, thinking was slow. All of this could have been avoided had the person thought of the piano more as a grand in a concert hall than an upright in a dining hall.
Hillsdale students want entertainment and music with their milk, cereal, and mashed potatoes at brunch, but they also want to appreciate the highest arts with their peers and be impressed by the musicianship of their friends and acquaintances.
The piano in Saga is a great outlet for spontaneous performances and the appreciation of the finer things in life because the environment is not casual nor professional. This gives opportunities for people to play who are not about to give a full-blown recital but are nonetheless interested in showing off their pieces.
It could also be useful for serious pianists warming up for competitions or recitals who want to perform in front of people without the stress of strict scrutiny that comes from being the center of attention.
As the Bard may have almost said, “if music be the food of Saga, play on!” (See, I do use my English major.) Piano players can play music that appeals to the general public, and most players have done a good job of that.
The classics are hymns, Pride and Prejudice, and The Lord of the Rings. Any of these are acceptable canon. A case could be made for musicals and some pop hits, but that’s another article. Also loved and most welcome is the classical piano canon that most only hear in recital halls.
So, by all means, students should play the piano during Sunday brunch and play it well. Music should uplift the soul and make students’ dining experience more enjoyable, like salt on Saga hashbrowns, and students should pass the salt when they can.
If all the world’s a stage as Shakespeare says, that includes the Knorr Dining Hall piano, and it might be your turn to get on up there and show off your technique next Sunday after church.
Brendan Clarey is a senior studying English.