By Chris DeLisle, Contributing Writer
Sitting alone against the plastered white brick wall, beneath the dotted white ceiling tiles that criss-cross above and beside the bustling main staircase of the Olsen Student Center lies an ancient piano. Scarred with age, the caramel colored Fischer piano frequently sits vacant and overlooked, its voice almost entirely swallowed into obscurity; however, this year a new student has arrived on campus who knows how to work its 88 keys, and has since been providing a fresh breath of life into the nearly forgotten instrument.
Samuel Schwehm, a first semester transfer student from Colby College, is the catalyst to this musical revival. A native of Boothbay Harbor, Schwehm has been playing the piano since the age of eight. The story behind how he started practicing the instrument is rather unique and humorous.
Just down the road from his rural childhood home lies a small yellow farmhouse. It is in this farmhouse that Mrs. House, the owner of the farm, teaches piano lessons from the cluttered living room. Schwehm, admitting that it wasn’t originally his interest for the piano that lured him to the farm, but that, “There was a trampoline in the backyard, and when my sister would have lessons I could jump on it, which I really enjoyed. So originally I thought, ‘Hey, if I take piano lessons, I will be able to jump on the trampoline more,’” said Schwehm.
Soon after beginning his lessons, Schwehm realized that he enjoyed this new activity far more than just bouncing on the trampoline.
In the many years since Schwehm first started practicing the piano at that small yellow farm in Boothbay, he has constantly been striving to hone and improve his skills. Schwehm has been part of many performances over the years, recently playing with professor Pete Hardy’s band, “Nuclear Salad.”
Schwehm singled out his first solo performance as being the most memorable. “I was in ninth grade at the time and my elementary school music teacher put together a performance for me at one of the local churches.” Schwehm continued, “It’s a tiny town, but the church was filled to the brim. It was an extremely rewarding experience.” Since then, Schwehm has continued to make numerous appearances at various churches, an activity that he thoroughly enjoys.
Schwehm explained that the benefits that stem from practicing music are vast. “Music can help you think, it can help you with math, reading, etc. Learning music enriches your mind in innumerous ways.”
The root of Schwehm’s love for the instrument is a love of limitless fortitude that stems from the feelings that overwhelm him as he plays the instrument. “It feels like there is nothing else in the world; it’s just you and the music, and the music just sort of happens.” Schwehm said elaborating, “You don’t quite feel responsible for it. It doesn’t feel like your work; it feels as if you are listening to it from somewhere else. It is very personal, but at the same time it is very distant.”
Schwehm also described a new level of confidence that is gained from learning and practicing an instrument. He said, “You can do things that you never thought you could, as long as you’re not quite trying. It’s effortless effort.”
A junior at UMF, studying music and mathematics, Schwehm is well on the way to finishing up his degree and leaving the university behind. When he eventually departs from UMF, taking his incredible talent with him, the aging Fischer piano will likely be reclaimed by silence. But for now, on either Monday, Wednesday or Friday, around 10:30 in the morning and again at 3:30 in the afternoon, the voice of the ancient piano can be heard when the majestic voice of the piano beckons out, engulfing the entire corridor in harmonious melodies just as beautifully as she did so many years ago.