It really seems like a long, long time ago that I nervously knocked on your front door for the first time. I was 6 years old. All I really knew at the time was that I wanted to play the piano like my big sister. Because I wanted to do EVERYTHING my big sister was doing. I wanted to BE my big sister.
I was a bit apprehensive because my last music teacher had been so mean. She was always yelling at her kids and yelling at me and really made me feel like a complete idiot. There was an entirely different atmosphere when I walked into your little ranch house. First of all, you set a cookie timer for our 30 minute lesson and that was about as formal as it got. It wasn’t work to take piano lessons from you. I WANTED to practice so you’d be proud of me. I think my first sense of task oriented satisfaction came from learning new pieces of music. I learned how to take something challenging and work at it and work at it until I could play it perfectly. So, maybe you’re a little bit to blame for my perfectionist tendencies, but, let’s face it, you probably just brought out an attribute that was going to come out eventually.
I remember getting together with your other students, playing games. You made learning so much fun. And I don’t think it was any wonder that after we moved away from Oklahoma, after 5 years of being your student, that I could never find another piano teacher that I could connect with. I learned a lot of music on my own over the next several years, but it was the basic foundation that you gave me that allowed me to be able to do that. You’d be so sad to learn that I don’t play anymore. I played for church for a while, but I just don’t have a piano to practice on or a place to put one. But I will. One day. I promise. Because I miss it. If I miss anything about times past it’s that I don’t have a piano to sit down to at the end of a stressful day and play my feelings away. I’ve turned to writing in my recent years, but it’s not the same as letting emotion melt away through a beautiful piece of music.
You were my first grown-up friend. I know I talked your EARS off and probably told you all kinds of things that you couldn’t have cared less about, but you never let it show if I did. You were always enthusiastic about our conversations, and we talked A LOT, but we still got the work done because I learned SO much from you. I took a musical elective – Musical Theory – when I went back to College in 2011. I was amazed at how much I’d forgotten, but even more amazed by how much I REMEMBERED. What an amazing teacher you were.
I remember your big dog, Pandy (I was terrified of all dogs – including her.) I remember you giving me a piece of strawberry candy after every lesson and I think of you every time I see some. I think of you every time I see a cookie timer or a kid playing in a recital or every time I get a chance to actually sit down and play a piano. I hear you counting time in my head (because God knows I was an……expressive piano player with a very bad sense of timing).
All of these little things sound insignificant I guess, but they were EVERYTHING to that 6 year old girl. Because you introduced me to a love for music that I carry to this day. I don’t have to play music to appreciate it. And I probably appreciate it now more than ever. It’s still a stress reliever for me. And it’s something I can return to one day because I know it might take some time, but it will come back to me. The foundation you poured was a strong one.
I didn’t feel like just another one of your students. I felt like one of your favorites. I’m willing to bet that just about all of your students would have said that as well.
Thank you for being one of the first people to believe in me that didn’t have to. Thank you for the gift of music. For the gift of listening.