The Sound of Music
Years of Piano Playing Teach Simplicity and Tolerance
by Samantha Carpenter
Many of us were required, or even forced, by our parents to play a musical instrument as a child, but few of us enjoyed it to the point of playing it for the rest of our lives. Not so for Norman Franke, system administrator for Midwest Jobbers of St. Charles, Ill.
Franke is an individual who loves playing his 9-foot Steinway concert grand so much that he still practices at least an hour each day during the week and two to three hours on Saturday and Sunday.
He began playing the piano at the age of three.
“The way the story goes,” Franke said, “is my mother was playing the piano one day at home, and I crawled up on her lap and she decided to show me some simple things. I apparently enjoyed it, so she kept teaching me as far as she could up until I started going to grade school.”
From first until eighth grade, Franke’s piano teacher was Mrs. Zurlinden. She was the primary piano teacher in Cary, Ill., at the time, and taught everybody. She also taught Franke’s dad, his brother and two sisters.
At Valparaiso University, Franke majored in music and studied to be a concert pianist under professor William Kroeger. From there, he auditioned at The Julliard School of Music but didn’t actually attend classes there.
Franke says that he doesn’t have one favorite composer.
“I do have an affinity toward the romantic-style composers, such as Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninoff, but also for Gershwin,” Franke said.
Franke said that he likes the piano because he can express his feelings.
“It changes every time you play it. You hear different things, so if you listen to what you’re playing, there are different ways of interpreting it,” he said.
Franke can play the organ as well as the piano, but he says he decided to specialize in the piano because the two instruments are vastly different.
“The only thing they have in common is they both have black and white keys and that’s where the similarity ends … I have a difficult time converting from one technique to another, and I got a lot of bad habits from playing the organ,” Franke said.
Franke said that playing the piano has taught him much about life.
“I’ve learned that everyone learns at a different rate, and that’s got nothing to do with the intelligence of the person. They may just learn a different way. That probably teaches me to be more tolerant of people, but I don’t know if I’m always successful at that,” he said with a laugh.
“I’ve had some rather expert training from one rather famous gentleman, Earl Wild. I still take lessons on occasion [from him]. I always try to apply what he tells me, not only on the piano but also anything else that might benefit from it as well,” Franke said.
Franke said that Wild also has taught him to simplify things.
“I try to look at things and say, ‘Alright now, this doesn’t have to be that difficult. We can make it easier.’ By doing that with the piano, it’s easier to play,” Franke said.
“Just because notes are written for the right hand, it doesn’t mean you have to play them with the right hand. If it’s easier to play some notes with the left hand, then do it. It’s the sound that counts not the music written on the page. That’s the music publisher’s interpretation.”
Franke also applies Wild’s teachings to his work. Besides his job as system administrator, Franke also designs Midwest Jobbers’ product catalog.
“I constantly make many revisions until I believe it expresses my ideas in the simplest, easiest to understand form. I look for ways to be consistent from the beginning to the end of a document and then repeat the form as necessary. That gives the reader confidence and familiarity without having to look at each page,” Franke said.
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