In the Beginning...
Monday, October 18, 2021 by Mary O'Connor | OCMS
Today, since it's a "teaching day", I'm thankful for my piano studio, my students, and my piano :)
When I was growing up, my dad was a minister, meaning we lived in whatever parsonage the church chose to let us live in. The one we had in Pawcatuck, CT had an upright piano that someone had put out in the sunroom. Not the best place for a piano, but I digress.
Since we had the piano already, someone - probably my mom - decided that I would take lessons. We had the organist from the Baptist church just across the river in Westerly, RI
Apparently, Clara Pashley was fondly remembered at the church (now Central Baptist Church) since she was mentioned in an article from 2010.
Miss Pashley walked to our house each week and taught me (and my mom who was always listening in) piano for the grand sum of 25 cents.
I started with Ada Richter's classic Teaching Little Fingers to Play, which has now been morphed into the John Thompson library.
From there, it was the Michael Aaron series, and some sheet music.
There was no music store in our town, so I have no idea where any of this music came from - but I still have it all.
My parents did very well for their quarter a week investment, especially since my mom paid good attention and was able to beef up lessons she'd had as a child. Later on, she played well enough that she was church organist for a local Roman Catholic Church.
But I digress...
In those days, kids couldn't do a whole lot of activities, so in 6th grade, I decided I wanted to be a Girl Scout. Bye, bye Clara .
Girl Scouts didn't last long but I did play piano in a talent show. I remember, I carefully cut Burgmüller's Ballade out of my Michael Aaron book and made a nice construction paper cover. (I still have this, too)
I doubt that I played this well but here's what it was supposed to sound like:
A few years intervened and we moved to Springfield, MA. The parsonage piano there was in terrible shape and in the dark, never-used basement. But I decided to make it mine and cleared up the area around it and started "practicing".
My Junior or Senior year of High School I decided I wanted to major in music in college. I decided to learn, on my own, a piano arrangement of Aragonnaise by Jules Massenet. I have no idea why or where that sheet music came from but I started working furiously on this piece.
Hopefully, at some point, it should have sounded like this:
I started pedaling (no pun intended!) my music to the Universities of Connecticut and Massachusetts and ended up at UMass Amherst since we were state residents.
Early morning gym classes (usually swimming), then wet hair traipsing across campus to music theory in winter 5 days a week. AARRGGH!
But I stuck it out.
My wonderful piano teacher, Howard Lebow, was killed in a car accident my sophomore year and I was devastated. There was about him in a post on January 26, 2018 over on https://oconnormusicstudio.com
I took yet another break from piano lessons - but I kept playing.
After DH graduated, we moved to Milwaukee, WI for his graduate school. Besides working 2 jobs, I found time to commandeer the practice rooms at the University of Wisconsin. I also found a teacher at the Schaum School of Music. She was amazed that I had no piano at home to practice on.
When we later moved to Alexandria, VA my DH gave me a choice of new car or piano. So, I found a used piano. The owner had acquired it in a divorce and wanted it gone. Yesterday. She even paid to move it out of her apartment.
The new-to-me piano took up half our living room. When my parents came to visit, their feet were under my piano as they slept on cots.
I found yet another new piano teacher and she is still my best friend to this day.
That piano moved to several locations before I bought a brand new Yamaha grand piano. The movers accidentally brought in the wrong one and I made them return it. The people who lived in an apartment were probably unhappy when they had to return my piano and take their own new baby grand back.
I started teaching as a traveling piano teacher in Silver Spring, Maryland. I continued that in Wilmington, DE.
When we got to Fairfax, VA I decided no more traveling. Students would come to me. And so they have since 1973.
What is supposed to be our living room is filled with music books, electric keyboards, the grand piano, 2 organs, 2 violins, 2 clarinets, a hand-made (by me!) dulcimer and other musical "stuff".
Piano playing has gotten me through the worst times of my life. Teaching has been a lifeline for me, as well.
I am so thankful for the students who have stayed with me over the years.