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Honorable Mention Owen Pace Bethlehem Central High School

A Blue Sky

It’s quiet, the lights are dimmed low and the faint buzz of “Me and Mrs. Jones” plays in the background. I quietly slouch into the cheap piss-colored office chair. Nobody talks. As I look up I see a backlit erase board that says “Featured Artist: Billy Paul”. Out of the corner of my eye, I watch a woman fumble in with a guitar case, in her mid-60s. She has been coming here for a few weeks and we often talk before she heads into her lesson. I greet her with a warm smile remembering the last thing she said to me: “It’s never too late to do something you love.”

Blue Sky Music Studios: The site of my piano lessons every Thursday at 7:00 for the last three years. The building is certainly not as creative as its contents; who would think that a concrete blue box placed next to an auto-repair shop, less than 60 yards from the four corners and across from a Mason Lodge could be so great? I sit patiently, awkwardly twiddling my thumbs and checking my phone. Brian, my mentor, emerges from the back room. He’s a short guy, no bigger than four feet tall, with a long skinny pony tail that drapes down his back. Today, he is wearing two collared Hawaiian shirts, khaki shorts and Nike sneakers with bright white socks. I hear, “Hey, Owen how’s it goin’”? Then we make our way to the back room which is more or less a closet with a piano squished inside. On one side of the room, there are file cabinets overflowing with music sheets, pictures of his kids, a pendulum and a radio clock. On the opposite side, there is a Wurlitzer upright piano. The track light from the ceiling reveals its shiny coat and the wood grains, thick and lush. A work of art. If one looks closely, there are animals drawn out of the shapes of spackling on the walls. Directly in front of me, there is a note etched out in pencil that reads “Note: there must be a Significant resemblance when drawing animals on the wall” followed by an arrow pointing to what looks to be an old man screaming “EXAMPLE”.

Brian is a king among men, great with kids and always smiling. When he was charged with possession of marijuana in the summer of ‘11, even his mug shot revealed a half-dimwitted smile that said, “It was totally worth it”. He is patient, determined, but soft spoken. I’m sure starting at a level for 4-5 year olds wasn’t easy, but he did his best to accommodate my needs and made me excited to learn. He’d teach me fun piano riffs like the intro to “Piano Man” or simple chord songs such as Cold Play and the Beatles. Learning songs I knew motivated me to want to improve and learn how to sight read better.

Brian even helped me pick out some of my first lesson books in their music shop. It is positioned in the corner of the waiting room, shielded from the rest of the world by two big sheets of Plexiglas, thus making a box. In here is an archive of CDs, sheet music, guitars, drums, keyboards etc. Like a CDTA bus it has people from all walks of life but is only there to help you get from one destination to another.

No matter what is going on in my life: a huge test tomorrow, a break up a week ago, a family crisis, a car crash, or problems with friends, I always have piano every Thursday at 7:00. I can put the whole world on pause and have thirty minutes to myself. That type of power and control gives me confidence and strength to make it through the week. No matter what happens, I will always have Blue Sky Music Studio: the place that taught me— it’s never too late to do something you love.