How I created two piano albums without ever taking lessons

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On October 12th, 2014 at 2.46am, I awoke to a “message” coming from the starry sky through my window and into my heart. It said, “You are to make music to help people relax and go inward, to help quiet the mind and reconnect with the Wonder of Life.” Umm…okay… This was totally confusing to me, since I had no formal training in music, and absolutely no idea how to carry out these “instructions.” I had enough trouble relaxing and staying positive about life myself! Although the message came through clearly and powerfully, my mind couldn’t quite grasp what was happening. I decided I was probably just imagining things, and promptly went back to sleep.

My plans to dismiss this message failed miserably. Over and over again in my mind for the next several weeks, I heard, “You are to make music to help bring a sense of peace and calm to people, to help them to remember who they really are, and to help them to know that life is really very, very good, and all is very, very well.” It seemed completely ridiculous, and it just wouldn’t go away. The only way to quiet it down was to try to carry out the instructions as best I could.

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Although I have never taken lessons, I’ve always felt drawn to the piano since I was a child. I would play around on our family piano, sounding out Christmas carols and Carole King’s Tapestry album, making up the left hand as I went along. Playing the piano was a source of relief and happiness for me. It was a special place where I could sit down and be left alone, have fun, and where my worried and fearful mind would stop spinning for a time. As I look back on it now, playing the piano was my way of being with God, as I have come to know God now – the ever-present, creative, deeply loving, and abundantly providing Spirit that lives and breathes in Every Thing. Since I had always loved the piano so much, it seemed as good an instrument as any to get started on my work.

 On November 17th, 2014, which happened to be my 41st birthday, my piano arrived, and my husband set it up so it would be ready for me when I came home from work. With hesitation, I sat down at it. It had been well over 20 years since those times at my childhood piano, but all of the old feelings of joy and peace and fun instantly came rushing back with the sounds of the first chords. I began to improvise whatever would come to my heart and mind, and recorded everything. When I would play back my recordings, I labeled everything as either: “trash,” “needs work,” or just “not good enough.” In fact, I decided it was better to just continue recording without playing anything back, just to dodge the hater in my head. (Sound familiar? Do you ever criticize yourself or the things you create in this way? Would you ever, ever speak this way to your best friend or someone special and expect her to feel worthy and loved?)

This process continued for six months. I often experienced strong urges to sit down and play, even when I was in the middle of something more “important,” or when I was asleep. The songs seemed to come through me, almost as if someone else were moving my fingers across the keys. I didn’t tell anyone except my closest family and friends what was happening. It was all so weird, not only in how the music was coming out, but even just thinking of creating piano music with no training. I tried to take lessons with a wonderful local teacher, but found that I really just enjoyed singing with her and hearing her play, so I decided to keep going on my own.

In April of 2015, after six months of recording whatever I improvised on the piano, I felt frustrated and like I wasn’t making any progress. I said to God, “Well, I have been playing here for six months, and still haven’t written any songs. I have these recordings, but they’re just stuff I improvised. I feel stupid. This is impossible! I don’t know what else you expect me to do!” Within moments, I felt a wave of love and compassion surround me, and I heard in my mind two clear words: “Just Listen.” I got up, turned on our main sound system, plugged in the USB flash drive of my recordings, and began to “just listen.” To my surprise, what I had labeled as “trash” and “needs work” and “not good enough” sounded completely different this time. It sounded like peaceful, relaxing music! As I continued to listen again and again, I allowed myself to get to know the music, to let it grow on me, and to lovingly accept it exactly as it was recorded.

No fine tuning, no revisions, no fixing. The songs seem to tell a story or to capture a moment in time, the way written poems do. Things were finally beginning to take shape, and the path was coming more and more into focus. Many old and new friends helped me to make Piano Poetry available to anyone, anywhere, who would like to listen.

The first album, “Peace To You,” is a collection of some of the more contemplative pieces of those original recordings. When life just isn’t the way you’d like it to be, challenges arise, or regrets overwhelm you, “Peace To You,” is here to offer you some relief. I hope you enjoy getting to know the music, like a new friend, or a favorite book.

 I am so grateful to you for listening, for reading what I have shared here, and for being a part of the story. The adventure I initially resisted has become one of great joy and plenty of blessings. I am so glad I didn’t give up on it. May the music bring you whatever you need, wherever you are. May it inspire you to follow your dreams, however ridiculous, impossible, or “not good enough” they may seem.

InspirationAmy Johnson