As the tranquil symphony spilled into the air of the open foyer and up the staircase, 7-year-old Mayci Fullmer admired her grandma’s elegance as she played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
It was her Ninaw Vina (this is the nickname that Fullmer has for her grandmother) that first got Fullmer into playing piano, but as she changed with age, so did her perception of playing. The admiration, turned chore became an emotional outlet. Fullmer and her piano have gone through life together and now it is something she wishes to pass down to her children and grandchildren.
“I want to be able to play like you,” she told her Ninaw.
Fullmer saw herself as a diva, performing piano on stage for a crowd but her dreams fell away with adolescence. Later in her life, piano would be the way she managed pressure.
Fullmer started taking piano lessons shortly after her admiration began in hopes of imitating her dexterous loved one and continued until she was 13.
Every week she and her Ninaw would sit outside in the car while her older sister Morgan was inside having her lesson. The windows rolled down as the breeze brushed across her cheeks and the crisp, mountain air danced through the 2011 pearl Denali. Fullmer entertained herself by practicing air piano until it was her turn to go inside.
With time Fullmer became more interested in being her own person rather than being her grandma, so she took up soccer and that occupied her free time. Between homework, soccer practice and games, there was no time for piano so she quit taking lessons her eighth grade year.
Once high school rolled around, it was not cool to play soccer anymore. Fullmer joined the cheerleading team and still she made no time to play piano except at the occasional family holiday dinner.
“I did not have the want to play then,” Fullmer said.
She cheered until an injury forced her to quit in the middle of her senior year. She fractured her wrist in three places while catching a flyer coming out of a stunt and never cheered again.
This newfound free time was dumbfounding. Soon after, Fullmer’s mom got remarried and her husband Dale moved into their home. He brought a piano. Dale said he wanted to put the piano into storage until Fullmer asked him if he would bring it instead.
“I started playing on it… relearning and re-familarizing myself with the piano,” she said.
Her fascination was back. She started taking lessons again, this time because her interest was her own. Fullmer was finding her passion.
That same fall she went for a hike at the Pinnacles in Berea. She was running with a hat on while looking down and trying to avoid falling on the rocky terrain. There was an overhanging rock that she could not see. Fullmer ran straight into the rock and fell backwards to the ground. The fall knocked her out and gave her a concussion so severe she was on homebound for a month.
Bed rest was the doctor’s recommendation and for the first couple of weeks, noise was crippling. She could not play the piano. She did not have a form of expression.
A month later, Fullmer returned to school and resumed her daily activities but her piano teacher had given up her spot in lessons. Unfazed, she began teaching herself techniques and short songs from Youtube videos until she felt comfortable in her skills again.
Now as a junior in college, Fullmer has her own keyboard in her apartment. She plays almost every day and loves how playing makes her feel.
“Music has always been special to be, but now it is a stress relief. It is an outlet,” she said.
When she is sad, she plays a sad song and when she’s happy, she plays an upbeat song. Fullmer now has a way to be creative, show expression, and release emotion because she watched atop the staircase as her role model played Moonlight Sonata.
“When I look back on my life and my Ninaw because she is no longer here, those will be the memories I will think of is her playing Moonlight Sonata,” Fullmer said.