The music lesson is a rewarding experience. Here are a few adult students who influenced me and added to my love of the piano and the joy of teaching.
Aziza Brendel was introduced to me by her instructor who wanted to place her with another teacher at that time. Aziza studied for many years. Eventually I met the great concert artist, Earl Wild, through Ms Brendel and attended special concert events. I selected a beautiful Bosendorfer grand piano for her, and the Chicago Chapter of the Piano Technicians Guild filmed a seminar with the renowned Virgil Smith and his Whole Sound Tuning Method, using that instrument.
Margaret Even had been given a gift certificate for lessons by a son in law. Although it was only for a month of lessons, Margaret continued to study for many years before she moved to a distant convalescent facility. In our years of study, Margaret learned a large number of great piano pieces. Margaret began her new lessons in her 70s and completed them in her late 80s. Her husband Francis, a patent attorney, began lessons sometime after she had started. Both became my great friends. It was a connection made through piano lessons that began this friendship, as I was their granddaughter’s teacher at the time. Francis performed in at least one of our regularly scheduled Adult Recitals. He was very proud to play the beautiful “Poeme,” by Zdenek Fibich. Mr Even decided midway through our time together that they should upgrade the family Baldwin Acrosonic spinet; they did so with a beautiful new Baldwin Model L grand piano.
Donna Bush studied for many years and had aspired to be a concert pianist. She had chosen her own Steinway grand piano before we met. Although she had worked in the insurance industry for her professional career, her passion was always the piano. She practiced and learned high level repertoire. The last piece she completed was Earl Wild’s transcription of the Rachmaninoff Vocalise. We struck upon the idea of some distance between us in my large studio, in order to give her the feeling of a real performance. I listened, following the score, from a comfortable arm chair that parents of students sometimes occupied during lessons. The last time we worked together was prior to a business trip to California. Every note was well played; her phrasing and dynamics further shaped this difficult, concert level work. Donna succumbed not long after to her cancer.
Ed Haggerty had been a Chicago Public School Principal. He described the Madison Avenue riots to me and the difficulty it of maintaining control in the 60s. He talked of requiring students at his school to take their lunch period in the auditorium so they could listen to him practice. Ed performed Chopin’s Fantasy in f minor, from memory, at one Student Adult Recital at Steinway & Sons in Hinsdale IL before a sizeable audience. Several of his children and his wife were happy to be in attendance! He also learned, memorized and performed complete Beethoven and Schubert Sonatas, Schumann, Bach, Mozart and other works from great masters. He joked with me that his strict daily practice regimen “keeps me out of trouble”! All this while Ed was in his 80s. I had helped Ed find his Steinway Model B semi-concert grand piano through a friend who taught at the University of Chicago.
Mary Goulding studied for many years. What I appreciated most was that she had a “story” for each piece she learned and perfected. The last one was “Reflections in the Water,” by Debussy. During the more than ten years of her study, we covered a long list of piano literature. Her friendship and her family’s connection to my own was special and her passion for music and the piano was present at each lesson. I helped Mary select her Steinway K52 Professional Upright piano during that time.
As their knowledge of great music and their abilities in piano increased, each of these students realized their desire for a better instrument.
These students, all now gone, brought their love of music, enthusiasm for piano lessons and desire to perform great works to every lesson. We always had so much to do, and so much discovery and thought went into their personal interpretations that it was then and still is an inspiration to me.
I was for a time involved in music education development initiatives that took me to California. There I had a few visits with Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler, who were judges on American Idol at that time. I enjoyed witnessing the show and especially the opportunity for more personal meetings and discussions about music and music education. I reminded Randy that he had a profound affect upon fans, contestants and music lovers because of his kind, caring approach to the critiques he offered and his obvious passion for sharing music with others. At one meeting I asked him for a favor. I dialed Donna’s number on my cell phone; she picked up, two thousand miles away, her voice quite weak and tired. I had explained that Randy and Freddy Mercury had been her favorite concert artists. How funny it seemed that this woman who had aspired to become a concert pianist would consider the founder of Queen and Randy Jackson to be her favorite musical personalities! (She often talked about these celebrities at lessons.) Randy took my phone and talked to Donna at some length and invited her to come out to Idol as his guest (it was her favorite show). She was not able to do that; she died only days after our call. She was so happy as they talked (I was able to hear her enthusiasm from across the table). Randy asked her to be blessed and called her “dawg” as they said goodbye. She and I talked about this moments later when I called her from the hallway outside the conference room.
Music unites us.
I often think of these special friends; I am so grateful that we met through music lessons.