I’ve been exploring various oddities since I’ve gotten streaming Netflix (and have cancelled my TV as well). As I mentioned on the New York Running Show, one of those is the documentary “They Came To Play.” It is the story of the 2007  Van Cliburn Foundation’s Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs.

The competition is open to pianists over 35 who have never been professionals. But, as the eligibility page says, “All competitors will be considered amateurs in the best sense of the word — not as those who ‘dabble,’ but as those who play the piano as a serious pastime rather than as a profession.”

The documentary chronicles a number of aspirants and then goes through the three levels of competition. The piano playing is extraordinary.

I’m a “dabbler.” I’ve gone through periods of inactivity. I have a small electric piano — the baby grand is woefully out of tune — and I work through Mozart and Springsteen and jazz progressions with their flatted ninths and how-to books. My wife does not appreciate the umpteenth time that I go through, say, a four-bar section to get the fingering right-left coordination right. In this, though, she’s saintfully patient.

I enjoy it.

Seeing what real amateurs, as opposed to dabblers, do got me to thinking about how many of us, myself included, are dabblers in the running profession. Amateurs joined by the love and passion for the sport, none of us good enough to have volunteered not to be professionals. And that ain’t chopsticks.

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