Practice First

Time to practice. I enquire if there are any music rooms on Lund University’s campus; Erik is unsure. Let’s ask his mom. Gunilla volunteers at one of the student housing complexes, Michael Hansens Kollegium I think it’s called. I know for sure that it is located on Dag Hammarskjöld St., named after the famous politician and United Nations director during the 1950s, in the western outskirts of Lund. A resident of Lund for almost thirty years, and involved in the university in several capacities for the most recent five of those years, Gunilla is a woman in the know.

Michael Hansens caters specifically to international students and offers reduced-price apartments. Housing in Lund is relatively expensive, but vastly more affordable than what I’m accustomed to in the Bay Area. I walk into the administrative office where Gunilla works, passing several sets of bulletin boards on the right hand wall. Plastered on the boards are various flyers, but what catches my eye are the ones of current students seeking apartment rooms. I told you housing was difficult to come by. Margaretha, Elias’ other Lund-residing relative, told me that three or four of her friends have contacted her, inquiring if their children could stay at her house this semester while at the University. I guess it helps to be lucky.

I explain my purpose to Gunilla, who thinks for a second before shaking her head that unfortunately, no, there are no music studios or rehearsal rooms per se. Lund does not have a university music school; the region’s music program is located in Malmö. Bummer. I’m a bit perplexed. Shouldn’t every university have a music department, or at least practice rooms of some kind? I mean, I know I was spoiled at Wesleyan but a music room with a piano should be “fundamental,” as Nils says. “Wait,” Gunilla remembers. There is a quiet room beneath one of Hansen’s dorms, which she seems to recall has a piano. Bingo.

We leave her office and walk into the courtyard, heading to a corner building fifty meters across the way. She unlocks the outer door and plunges down a dark and low-clearing staircase while I duck along behind her. Past a few water pipes and central heating ducts and through another doorway we go. I wonder when the last time a living person traversed this passageway. Gunilla quickly interrupts my thoughts – we are here. I pull the handle, and to my delight a petite but charming room appears, complete with an upright piano. As if it has been waiting for my arrival. Gunilla smiles and tells me she’ll come get me in an hour and a half when her shift ends.

Adjacent to the piano sits a tiny organ, and against the far wall stands a cross above a small table with a prayer book resting on it. Decades ago this room would have been utilized as a spiritual refuge, a place to come to for tranquility and religious observance. As I sit down and rest my fingers on the glossy keys I feel a sense of clarity, which wanes as I begin to play. I’m a bit rusty. Travel will do that. But as I return to this room over the next two weeks, I am optimistic about getting back in the groove.

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