Almost Losing My Heart
Whenever I saw a piano (as a child) I felt compelled to play it. I attribute this to my birthday because it fell just after the kindergarten cutoff for enrollment by two hours, and resulted in piano lessons for a year. When I did start kindergarten a year later our class shared many miscellaneous items in Show and Tell, (one involved a large coconut which I carried ten blocks with two skinned knees – the frustration of dropping and falling over and over, and the excitement of wanting to show it to my classmates… I still remember).
I am told that one afternoon our kindergarten teacher was called out of the room. As you know, teachers rarely leave the classroom because chaos often ensues. With a bit of trepidation she returned to find the entire class quietly huddled around the piano where I was sharing some of the pieces that I had learned. I wasn’t showing off, just simply showing them things I had learned, much as teachers did for me for many years to follow.
I have memories of many teachers who made a difference. It wouldn’t be fair to single out one because I was lucky to have had so many. Everyone talks about good teachers that make a difference. They never talk about the lousy ones, but I had a crop of those, too. By that time I was much older, an accomplished pianist after decades of lessons, but now ignored primarily because I dared to try to write music instead of just play music. That also taught me a lot as a teacher. It taught me never to pre-judge a student by assuming that they didn’t have anything to offer because of the notion that only certain people can write music or learn about music. It sounds almost impossible today. People lose jobs over that. I almost lost my heart over it.
No, I didn’t teach at that school, although I did create a course at one of its sister institutions, a course in Marketing the Arts, which I taught for several semesters – much to my professors’ chagrin. I persevered in the program, and, as luck would have it, became a music critic at a major metropolitan newspaper and ended up reviewing every professor I had and their music writing. (Unlike them, I was kind). I graduated and changed schools.
At this new school I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never did. I expected the same treatment. My music was representational which was not in vogue. What I found instead was that the faculty and students accepted me and my music. Interestingly enough, I rarely play piano anymore except to compose. My many days of performing in order to be an accepted musician were now only as an accepted composer – I made a point of it. I taught theory classes, which is what most composers teach while finishing their terminal degree. I wrote articles and produced concerts. I reviewed concerts at another major metropolitan newspaper from time to time. But I now never introduced myself as a pianist, which was where I found my heart. I now only refer to myself as a composer, where I found it again.
It took losing my heart to find it again and it means too much to me to let it go. I love teaching music and teaching about being a musician. I love teaching about the creative process and I love the enthusiasm of my students, learning about or hearing music for the first time. That is where my heart takes me.