Tonight marked the end of my decades-long era teaching children. It happened as a kiss-off in the front seat of a snazzy van. The parent of two over-scheduled kids dropped them off at swimming following piano, leaving me as the sole passenger about to be pink slipped.
What else to expect? Soccer, tennis, swimming and related mega- sports commitments demanded practices, meets, and picnics. Piano was a throwaway on a roster of extra-curriculars tailor-made to knit Varsity letters on Ivy League sweaters in 5 to 7 years.
It was stolen time, (not rubato by any means) that robbed children of deep-layered musical learning, in concert with electric blenders, a barking dog, and soccer pals banging on the door to carpool. They drowned out a Bach minuet and jazzy, syncopated rhythms of “Linus and Lucy.”
A mortified 9-year old sat at his spinet, blushing with embarrassment as his chums snatched a glimpse of him tickling the ivories. (One of the keys had been chipped by a falling loose-leaf, without a second thought)
Still with enduring patience, I was on his wavelength, weaving football, baseball, even soccer plays into lessons as sports metaphors. “Play with bigger energies, like you’re throwing a pass down the football field; Map out your plays, like your soccer coach does, don’t choke or tighten up, breathe long natural breaths.”
Every so often I’d bring up a sports icon like Michael Jordan, or AIR Jordan to be exact, making the connection to physical ease and graceful motion.
Even magic bullet pieces pierced his membrane of boredom, only long enough to die on the vine from neglect. At most piano had become a touching bases activity without a journey to home plate. (It was not his fault, his energy was sapped, and time was sparing)
The older sister with six years of piano under her belt, was barely treading water yet she’d managed to reach a culminating point with Mozart Sonata K. 545 on the rack, though it was floundering, along with her D Major scale.
Triumphant with Burgmuller’s “Inquietude,” that spanned months of learning, she nonetheless proved that she could weather the storm of daily dunkings, and manage to pull one piece together over many months.
For me it was “quality” not quantity which formed a thread of continuity from lesson to lesson, despite a formidable obstacle course.
Now our connection was to be severed just in time for the Holidays! (The family would be off to Florida, Tahoe, or any number of desirable locales)
And while mom’s last words to me might have been expected, they still came as a shock given their promise of finality.
“I think you ought to know that we’re reconsidering piano lessons for the kids. They’re just not practicing, or if they do, it’s very irregular… and it’s a major investment for us.”
I thought of the gorgeous view from her home high up in the HILLS, how I snapped a pic before lessons and settled cozily into the van following. I shared a tender memory of my first lesson with her daughter 6 years back before soaking up the sudden reality of termination.
As a post Script, mom e-mailed me:
“They have learned so much from you and I’m so glad you have been a part of their lives (and their music education).”
..which from my perspective had only just begun….