The Piano: Mainstream Music Gone Wild

When I recently got my hands on a copy of Gina Oliva’s Alone in the Mainstream: A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School, I knew right away—before I even opened it—that this was a good book (if you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend it).

It was a blurb on the back cover that immediately hit home: “…when the kindergarten teacher played the piano to signal the next activity and the other students began to move, Oliva didn’t react.” Ai-eeee! The Piano!

Any deaf person who went to a mainstream school can remember The Piano—and cringe. As we all know, music is VERY important to hearing people. And it drives them nuts when we miss out. They’ll do anything to get us involved. They’ll slap a hearing aid on us, turn up the volume 800 decibels, or stick our heads in a blaring tuba.

In my case, I actually drove hearing people to push me away from music. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in kindergarten attending a music class at the Henry Houston School. Like Oliva in Alone in the Mainstream, I was kind of out of it. But I could see this was important to all of the hearing people around me, so I sucked it up and did the best I could.

Using my modest lipreading skills, I managed to figure out the words to a song. And that’s when I cut loose with a voice that could shatter glass:

“My gal rode the boat outdoors… with Al and Louiiiiiieeeee, yeah!”

The whole class stopped singing. Cockroaches scurried out of the building. Dogs howled. Farm animals bolted and ran for higher ground. My music teacher, Ms. Maris, had a pained expression on her face. It was the kind of look you'd expect from someone who just drank a glass of sour lemonade.

“Um, Mark…” said Ms. Maris. “The actual words to the song are, ‘Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah.’”

Geez, life is hard in the mainstream. It was obvious right then and there that my music career was over.

Or was it? Just for you, my dear readers, I’ve come out of retirement:

I’m deaf as a post, singing this song;
Singing off-key and the words are all wrong.
My voice really stinks, get out the Lysol;
I’ve nauseated Simon on American Idol.

On second thought, I’ll stick with writing.

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