"Did Somebody Say Fresno" compiled by Aviva Kirsten, Berkeley California, Berkeley piano studio, El Cerrito California, El Cerrito piano studio, Monterey Market in Berkeley California, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten

My new home in Berkeley, California

Boxed in my apartment from wall-to-wall following a U-Haul drive to Berkeley, I dug myself through endless cartons to freedom in the Promised Land. The transition coincided with Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year, though Passover would have more amply marked my emancipation.

Enslaved to decades of unrelenting Central Valley heat, I experienced a quality of life compromised by air pollution and allergy that sent me scurrying to Craig’s list, S.F. Bay housing in raging pursuit of relocation.

As reference, I’d sniffed the refreshing East Bay air in my weekly jaunts to El Cerrito to teach piano. Such satisfying encounters spanning four years, reminded me that my return to the Valley was a dreaded re-exposure to the very elements that dogged me to the point of despair.

It was best to fast forward to the happiest day of my life, when I hired a young man to help me load a U-Haul in pursuit of my new digs on Hopkins in Berkeley. He then drove the distance in record time.

Thank you, Jeremy Norris!

Go NORTH, and don’t look back!

The arrival was historic, though slightly marred by a U-Haul drop-off in Richmond. The Berkeley City Council had denied gas-guzzling, air polluters a parking depot. It was the antithesis of Fresno’s welcome mat for hydro-carbon-spewing vehicles. Enough said!

In this personal rite of passage, I would not return to Fresno again, except to hear my former students play at the MTAC Fall Festival in October. They had been transferred to a fine teacher in my Old Fig Garden neighborhood. Our parting was with sweet sorrow.


Over three decades in the Valley, and scores of pupils later, I had to admit that I was blessed by performance and mentoring opportunities that were unique: playing for Valley Public Radio, presenting workshops, producing two CDs, practicing at all hours of the night while personally refrigerated in defense against stifling triplet digit temps. I made good use of indoor time by launching Skype lessons to Greece, England, Australia, and beyond. These journeys abroad were trailblazing!

My daughter Aviva had likewise found a niche for herself in Fresno. She created and edited a 6-part, Hollywood-generated archive, “Did Somebody Say Fresno?!” as Conan O’Brien caricatured our infamous city with bobble heads!

Like me, she was ready for her Fresno evacuation.


The Transition by photo and video


Readers will notice that my Steinway upright and singing nightingale, “Haddy” Haddorff are glaringly absent. “Haddy” is temporarily housed at a piano teacher friend’s house in Clovis, while the vertical is well-placed at my NEW Berkeley piano studio just six blocks from my apartment.

I’ll teach in Berkeley and El Cerrito studios, while re-launching Skyped instruction from home. (a winning trio!)


Now into my 5th day of Berkeley residence, lessons have resumed both here and on the continent. (1 p.m. to England, PDT)

Happy as a lark, I’m settled in and embarking up the magnificent Berkeley adventure just a sneeze away from the Monterey Market that will UP my anti-oxidant levels. What a great entree to the New Year!


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