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Piano Key courtesy of Angela Lloyd


 “So we got to talking about pianos, and legacy – or, this thing that you’re given when you’re very young and, I think, if you’re fortunate you’ll be able to make your way in the world with it.”

Angela’s life has always been filled with music.

What I always tell people is that I was raised with three languages – English, Spanish, and música. My mother was a composer and a pianist. And my father loved to sing, and he was an actor. He was an engineer, but he loved performance. I grew up sitting at the foot of the stereo console, looking at the LPs, listening, and, when I could read, following the words. Years later, when I started to study storytelling, people would say, ‘What culture do you tell stories from?’ And I’d say, ‘I tell stories from my parents’ LP vinyl collection.’

Angela’s mother taught piano lessons on a nesting pair of Steinway & Sons pianos. Angela normally wears the key to one of those piano keys -- pictured above -- around her neck.

I discovered this key 36 years after my mother passed. It was in her cedar chest, in the paper Steinway & Sons envelope. I never saw the key as a child; it may have lived in the piano.

Discovery of the key happened to correspond with a time of tumultuous change in Angela’s life. She had just been offered a job teaching music to kindergarteners and first graders in Spanish at a bilingual immersion school in Long Beach.

When I applied and I got the job, I was wearing this key. And for me, all I could think was, ‘This is the key – I’m going home. I’m going back to my original language. I’m going to be with young children who were my age when I was given what I was given. It’s going to be music, not storytelling. I’m going home.’

Three days before the teaching position was to begin, the contract fell through.

​I had packed my entire house; the moving truck was coming. My whole 16 years here were in boxes.

As a part of the packing process, Angela had unearthed a 3/4” tape of her first solo performance, recorded at a television studio in 1980, the year her mother passed away. Angela took the tape to a local shop to have it transferred to a digital format. She got to talking to the local owners, who noticed the key hanging from a cord around her neck. They started talking about pianos.

And Larry walked in. They said, ‘Angela, Larry is selling a piano on ebay.’ I said, ‘Really, what kind of piano is it?’ He said, ‘It’s an upright grand.’ Now, you know that I’ve been around pianos. But when he said ‘upright grand,’ what I imagined was a Steinway grand piano shape up against a wall, with a keyboard sticking out. And I said, ‘I’ve never seen such a thing. I’d love to see it before you sell it.’

We started to talk, and a few minutes later Larry said, ‘I’m gonna give you that piano.’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t need a piano I’m moving! I don’t know where I’m moving, but I’m packed!’ What we didn’t know on that day was that when he said, ‘I’m going to give you that piano,’ that he was going to give me that piano, but that he was coming, too.

​Larry moved into Angela’s house in 2007, still packed with boxes for the move. Larry brought with him the upright grand piano. Three years later, in 2010, Larry and Angela got married. The piano key, and music, had indeed brought Angela home.

I grew up with a legacy of music as a sort of groundwater – the boat that takes you where you’re going. When I started wearing the piano key, I thought, ‘This is taking me home.’ And, I did come home. I just didn’t go anywhere. I undid what had been a single life for fifty some years, and made some space for someone else to come in.