When Medford mom Maribel Garcia wanted to learn to play the piano, nothing could stop her, even if it meant trading her labors as a housekeeper to pay for weekly lessons with Phoenix piano instructor Margie Daly.
When Garcia — courtesy of Daly — won a gently used $3,000 piano in a holiday contest last week through Medford's Artistic Piano, icy roads only slightly deterred a very excited Garcia from picking up and playing her early Christmas surprise.
Garcia, who sings at her church, said she began taking lessons partly so she could play piano during worship services.
Living on a tight budget, Garcia could not afford to buy even a used piano, so she spent hours between her lessons practicing on a small, plastic, children's keyboard.
"I have always loved music, and I always wanted to play an instrument," Garcia said. "I sing at my church, and I have so many songs to sing, I felt like I needed to learn the piano so I can share my songs.
"When I started taking lessons with Margie, I was practicing on a keyboard that someone gave to me. The second time I went to her house for a lesson, Margie said, 'You need a piano. Your keyboard is cool, but it's only good for some things. So she prayed over me and said, 'Dear Lord, Maribel really needs a piano!' "
Daly was the actual winner in the contest, but she said she entered with the intention of helping her student.
More than 100 people entered the contest, and Daly feels certain she won the piano, a Kimball Artist Console, because Garcia truly "deserved to have it."
"When I saw they were doing the contest on Facebook, something inside me said, 'I am going to win this piano for Maribel.' So, of course, when I saw her, I was so excited," Daly said.
"I told her, 'Maribel, I'm winning you a piano!' We laughed so hard, but I just really felt like I was going to win it for her. Like I just had to."
Matthew Wright, co-owner of Artistic Piano, said about four-dozen contest entrants showed up last week for the drawing.
Daly's name wasn't the first one chosen, but winner of the contest had to be present to win. When a young child drew a second name, Daly's husband, Pat Daly, nudged her in the ribs.
"When he did that, I just knew it was going to be Maribel's piano," said Daly.
Wright said he was touched by Daly's gesture for her student.
"The greatest part about this whole thing is that Margie won it, and she wasn't even planning to keep it. She won it for ... someone who really wanted music in her life," Wright said.
"I heard from a lot of people who wanted to win this piano to stick it on Craigslist and sell it because they needed money. If they won it, I figured it belonged to them and they could do what they wanted, but it was really great that it ended up with somebody who deserved it."
Still "very surprised" at her unexpected gift, Garcia spent much of Monday afternoon practicing for her next lesson.
"We got it set up yesterday, and I practiced for a really long time," she said.
"I usually practice a lot, but I played for even longer because now it sounds so good."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at email@example.com.