I’m sure that my late husband, Carl, is rolling over in his grave now. He would not have guessed in a million years at what I’m doing these days.
You see, I’ve taught organ for over 40 years now, but for the first time in my life, I now have a piano student! I’ve always considered myself a washed-up pianist since I stopped playing decades and decades ago. It was in 8th grade, after taking piano lessons since I was 4, that I told my mother I wanted to quit the piano. Even then, I always sightread my lessons and didn’t practice a lick during the week. My teacher didn’t seem to notice since I could sightread just about any piece put in front of me — at least she didn’t let on that she did. It was then that I decided to play the organ and I’ve never looked back since.
My sisters and I grew up without television and used the piano as entertainment. I know that I’ve written about our sightreading game — we used one of my mother’s “Greatest Classics” compilations, opened the book at random, and the first sister had to sightread it. When she made a mistake, she lost her turn, and she got to find the next piece for the next sister to sightread. I do remember Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” and Chopin’s “Prelude in E minor” (op. 28, no. 4) were in the book — so I guess those two pieces are the extent of my legitimate piano repertoire.
Anyway, I met a young woman at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church where I was the parish administrator. She moved to the United States from mainland China over a year ago when she came to Hawaii to be married. She is the same age as my son, and underwent the green card process at the same time as my daughter-in-law. Bonnie came frequently to the church to set up for altar guild and to volunteer in the office, and we became friends.
Over time I found out she had been trying to teach herself how to play the piano. I was very curious about how one goes about doing this and offered to teach her. At our first lesson, I indeed was able to help her with practice techniques, hand position, musical terms, dynamics, and general musical questions. At other lessons, we worked on use of the damper pedal and other techniques.
Yes, I know enough to be able to help her in these areas, and I bet Carl would really be surprised. You see, every time there was a piano accompaniment, Carl would ALWAYS do it. I didn’t even try and was relegated to being the page turner. He begged his parents for piano lessons since age 5 and drove his family wild with his fiendish practicing. He majored in piano performance in college and found himself playing lots of chamber music and concertos with regional orchestras before he left the Northwest in 1972.
So there you have it — I am a piano teacher! (don’t laugh!)