****Listen to the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata by clicking on the youtube link at the end of this essay as backround music while reading
Teaching piano for over 30 years, starting as a young independent teacher, initially and somewhat un-prepared professionally but having to create work in a crisis, in a hurry, pronto, PRESTO!!! led to many interesting adventures in my long career: private lessons in many homes, creating the formerly non-existent role as the singular member of “the music department” in a small Catholic grade school, running an independent piano teaching business there in between classroom teaching, taking on the role as choir director and pianist for monthly liturgies and a chorus, driving all over my home area to teach privately to whole families taking lessons..it all had me fully engaged in community as one of the primary accomplished piano teachers in this area during those years. And no, I am NOT a concert pianist.
To become a primary teaching force in a community…one must have a passion, a sense of adventure, creativity, enthusiasm, a sense of humor and the willingness to entice and excite students into a love of music and all its wonders. You must follow your instincts to teach and engage creatively…whatever works, and often and especially not” by the book”!
Kevin was a very interesting young student…his parents were firm in that he would be taking lessons until he was about the age of 14, no say in the matter from him. One of the main forces in his life was his father, who was an enormously intense and strong-minded man who believed in tough discipline with little room for kiddy compromise on issues like..”do you think you’d like to take piano lessons with Mrs. Green?” No choice. YOU WILLL TAKE PIANO LESSONS!
Kevin (and I) pretty much hung in there week after week, year after year (I think he started with me in first grade, me going to his house for lessons after school.) Often we made progress, but sometimes however, his spirit flagged, or his spirit rebelled against the strong wishes of his father, wills battling boy vs. man. And our piano times together momentarily became an arduous chore for both of us.
Kevin was about 10 and we had been working on Schaum’s easy arrangement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony which I really like and which students really enjoy because it does capture the themes moving up and down the keyboard, no “hand position”, and with the famous repetitive 3 note theme everywhere. It was a personally tough time for Kevin finding his personal “boy/man” autonomy and he was faltering when Beethoven could have given him inspirational power and strength in this particular time. I had to do something drastic but I wasn’t quite sure what.
I was driving to his house for a summer vacation lesson for him and his his little sister, Kyra. I was listening to WGBH, our Boston classical channel and as I pulled into his driveway, it was announced on the car radio that after the commercial advertisements, they would be playing the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. PRESTO I jumped out of the car, ran into their house, not even knocking and yelled to them…and their startled parents who had been waiting for me…”QUICK! NOW! PRONTO! PRESTO! We are having an important piano lesson in my car! Quick! We are going for a ride…NOW! Kevin and Kyra!!! Let’s go!!!!! Get in the car!!!!!”
Because I was known to be exceedingly trustworthy, their parents shooed them out the door with me, tho looking quite confused, we three ran to the car, I assigned them PRESTO into the back seat, hit the gas pedal and roared off up onto Route 1 north towards “The Tower” just as Beethoven’s 3rd movement of the Moonlight Sonata came on…turning up the dial almost full blast and yelling…”Kevin! This is Beethoven!!! He is AWESOME! Listen to THIS!!!!!!” . And away we sped up and down the highway listening to this piece of music with periodic excited comments from the teacher….Moi!
These two kids were so shocked and wide-eyed…I could see them in the rear view mirror thinking…”this is surely weird…but it’s Mrs. Green so it must be important…”.
We eventually made it back to their living room and had a kind of mixed up lesson, but I KNOW wherever Kevin is today…that is a piano lesson he never forgot…and I must say, after that he did quickly finish the Schaum arrangement of Beethoven’s Fifith Symphony and was really quite puffed up about it.
Moral of this Teaching Piano Story: Do whatever you have to do to create excitement !
NOTE: Now that I think about it, Beethoven up there looks a little like Kevin’s Dad.
**** As I have been writing this memoir, I have been listening to Valentina Lisitsa’s performance of Beethoven’s 3rd movement of the Moonlight Sonata. PRESTO!!!!
Link! Exciting performance!: PRESTO!!!!
From Christine, aka “Mrs. Green”, The Piano Mistress
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