Your Story: Sarah Buckley

Readers share with us their own piano journey.
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I’m Sarah Buckley. I’m from Toronto, Canada. I teach piano and I mentor musician entrepreneurs in personal and professional development.

Here’s my story…


Piano has been a constant in my life.

My parents signed my brother and I up at age 6 for group piano lessons. They required each of us to study until we passed our Royal Conservatory Level 8 exam, and then we could decide if we wanted to continue.

My brother is 18 months older, and I’m competitive, so I always tried to practice hard enough to reach the same book as him. He squeaked through his grade 8 exam and could not have quit fast enough. My competitive nature kicked in and I thought ‘I’ll do grade 9 just so I have one more level than him.’

Deep down I must have known I loved it but it wasn’t until that grade 9 year that it really sunk in that I was a pianist and teacher at heart and this was my life’s calling.

A Warning on Brahms

When I was 20 and studying piano performance at the University of Western Ontario a clarinet professor was coaching a friend and I on a Brahms Sonata. He said,

“There should be a warning on Brahms: Do not play until you’re 30.”

I shrugged, thinking I knew better and he was ‘eccentric.’ (Though I never did really express the slow movement right – and don’t get me wrong he is an amazing professor, I was just being a 20 year old.)

Fast forward 10 years. I turned 30. I was accompanying a violist on the SAME Brahms Sonata at the University of Missouri. I was so busy with teaching and playing that it took a few weeks to even notice it was the same Sonata. I enjoyed the piece and didn’t think too much of it.

A few months after my 30th birthday I had my first miscarriage. It was just after the first trimester, and just after I had announced the pregnancy to family and friends. Congratulations texts and emails rolled in as I responded with “Well actually….”

As I continued to play, suddenly I felt what Brahms was feeling so much more intensely. Suddenly the slow movement tempo made perfect sense and I didn’t have to try so hard to set it.

I played and balled in the privacy of my office. I have always loved playing the piano but since that season of my life it has meant a lot more to me and I feel more deeply as I’m playing.

So many blessings…

As difficult as loss can be I’m grateful for the experience and for the comfort of music.

So many blessings came into clearer view after that time. And now, the piano is a place I gather with my daughters and teach them to play.

I regularly thank my parents for requiring piano study as part of my childhood, and I’m grateful for the opportunities to share music with my family, my students, and their families.

I think it’s time I send that professor an email….

Sarah Buckley

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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is the author of HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC, published worldwide by Hal Leonard. He is a widely respected piano educator and published composer based on Milton Keynes UK.