Catherine Cannon

When I was young, I went to Alverno College Elementary School, a Roman Catholic school for gifted kids. While in four-year-old kindergarten, I became fascinated at the sister who played the piano for all of our children’s songs. I knew right then that that was what I wanted to do. After begging my father for a piano for an entire year, one evening, I was sitting on his lap, begging him again. He asked me, “How badly do you want a piano?” “I want it so much it hurts,” I cried and buried my face in his shoulder. What father can resist a daughter’s tears? He went out with my mom and, when I got home from school one day, there was my upright piano. I think it was a Baldwin but I am not too clear on that after all of these years. 

I took classical piano lessons from age five to age nine when my father came up with the brilliant idea of switching me to organ. I was devastated as I watched my piano go out the door. My father took me to a piano/organ music store and there we picked out a small, spinet organ by the name of Orgasonic and immediately I knew that there wouldn’t be enough keys. A spinet organ was more or less for someone who just wanted to play around with and show off to his or her friends. It is essentially one keyboard that is split in two, one portion on the top, one on the bottom, and an octave of pedals at the bottom. I knew right away that I didn’t like it nor would I do serious music on it but my father listened to the salesman who was really just after his money and not my best interest. About a year later, after complaining to my dad that there just weren’t enough keys on the top or the bottom, he bought me a huge Hammond organ that I still have today with full octaves on both top and bottom and two octaves of pedals on the bottom. So why did he switch me from piano to organ? Because he thought I would make more money playing it in church than I would ever make playing the piano. I hated the organ for a long time. My legs were barely long enough to where my feet could meet the pedals. I had to balance precariously on the bench to even touch the pedals with my big toes. At age 13, I quit taking lessons because I was so fed up with the nuns wacking my fingers with a ruler for every little mistake. I also had become interested in Bach, rather than the show tunes from Broadway musicals that my father wanted me to play. The last nun to teach me then told me that I would never play Bach. Sixteen years later, I wanted to go back and show her just how good at Bach I was. Throughout high school, I diddled around on that Hammond playing pop favorites, some rock. Some I had sheet music for, others I played by ear. I even learned to play that famous organ part by Bach that Matthew Fisher improvised on in Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale”. I was also in the marching, concert, and jazz bands in high school playing the snare drum, traps, timpani, chimes, glockenspiel and piano for the individual student competitions every year so I know quite a bit about percussion as well. At age 29, I went back to college after having my family and, in a town of 10,000 people, became one of the most popular organists in town. I had two main churches, the Roman Catholic and the Episcopal, and played many weddings and funerals for the Lutheran and Methodist churches as well. At age 39, I met up with Stew Cannon and we started dating. Because he was doing his own thing in his studio, he gave me the opportunity to begin to really play rock. He was very patient with me as my classical influence streamed through every song and it worked! We’re still working on the “rock” part but we both feel I’m getting much better at it. So I guess you could say that I used my Music Minor more than my English Writing Emphasis BA over the years but I’ve loved every minute of it!