Last year, I stated in my 2015 Spring Newsletter, it was my forty-third year of teaching, however, my math was a little off. It took a surprise gift of 100 promotional pens to set the record straight. It turns out the 2015/2016 term was my forty-fourth year of teaching, which makes 2016/2017 my forty-fifth.
Forty-five years seems like long time, but it really doesn’t feel like it to me. I enjoy working with my students so much that most-often, teaching doesn’t seem like work. There is the occasional rough day, but isn’t that just part of life?
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with literally thousands of students. Through them I have witnessed and experienced many things, and they have taught me much, enriching my life and shaping me as a teacher.
My Studio has been Home to much Humor…...
There was the cute little girl who insisted on calling me “Mrs. Pianowich”.
How about a cherub-like curly-haired three-year-old boy who loudly announced to me, as I knelt beside him at the piano, “Excuse me. I have to flatulate and possibly have a bowl movement!”, (in exactly those words).
Then there was the little fellow who I barely managed to catch in mid-air, as he stepped off the elevated stage at the Saskatoon Public Library after a recital performance.
My sweet little daughter and her best friend giggled so hard, they couldn’t perform at a recital.
Once, a father caused myself and all group lesson members much concern, as he collapsed while attempting to stand up after a class – it turned out both of his feet had fallen asleep.
Just a week ago, a little guy stroked my arm, exclaimed “All your hair fell off your head and ended up on your arm!”.
I once told a little girl I could pull out her tooth by attaching a string from it to my adjustable piano chair and retracting the seat. She declined at the time, but I received a perplexed phone call from her mother the following day to tell me the girl now wanted me to perform the extraction.
My Studio has Experienced many Heart-Warming Moments......
As a young teacher, I taught in Viscount, SK once a week during school hours. One student, a young girl, always had great difficulty playing her pieces. She insisted she practised every day. After weeks of watching her suffer, it finally dawned on me to ask her about her piano. Was it full-sized? When was the last time it was tuned? Could it be tuned?
Her answer was a tearful one. Since parents could not afford a piano, her fashioned a cardboard keyboard for her. She practised on it every day, but had no idea how her pieces were supposed to sound. I was heart-broken, shocked and at a loss for a solution. When I told an acquaintance, from Viscount about this, small town spirit kicked in and he found her a piano. I can still recall the look on her face when we told her.
I once worked with a ten-year-old boy with Asperger's syndrome, who had studied unsuccessfully with other teachers. This boy was brilliant – he was at a very high academic level, but possessed the social skills of a young child. When it came to music, his highly-analytical mind did not relate to abstract concepts such as tone, dynamics, and control. He played very mechanically and became frustrated very easily, often throwing what I called “musical tantrums”. He also often doggedly questioned my instructions.
In five years of piano study, he had not been allowed to perform at a recital, due to his inability to focus. My goal was to get him listening instead of thinking, and to simplify the way he learned. We worked on easily-attainable one-page pieces with specific goals, one phrase at a time. That year, he did play at a recital. As he performed, I looked out into the audience to see his mother crying tears of joy.
My Studio has been Home to the Bizarre......
One bitterly cold winter’s evening, there was a knock on the front door of my house. A mother, who had just left group lessons with her two boys sheepishly asked my wife to use the phone because one of her children had thrown her car keys high into a pine tree in front of my house.
Early one October, a massive snowstorm crippled Saskatoon. Huge amounts of heavy, wet snow fell, toppling trees, making driving nearly impossible. Phones were out, so I had no contact with students. People did not show up for lessons that day, until……
My last lesson was to be at 8:00 pm, but no one came. Shortly after 9:00 pm, the doorbell rang. A mother and her three children had come for their lesson. It took them over an hour to reach my house, with the dad slowing down just enough to let them out at my house so he wouldn’t get stuck. His plan was then to drive around until the lesson was over. It was a very short lesson, because the girls had not touched the piano that week! We sat and waited, with no way to contact their father. He had become stuck a few blocks away from my house. It was a very long night!
A mother forced her way between her eleven and thirteen-year-old sons, to break up a fist fight they were having in my studio. As I approached to lend a hand, one boy tore the mother’s blouse wide open as he reached around her. I promptly retreated.
My Studio has Experienced much Joy…...
Being part of so many children’s lives – watching their journey from toddlers, through their adolescent and teenage years to adulthood – what a privilege!
Many years ago, Dr. Suzuki said “Ability development is a long-term process. Do not be influenced by the short-term, every day difficulties. Always be confident that over time, with the proper environment and careful nurturing, ability will grow.”
I have been witness to this on many occasions. Parents dedicated to their children’s growth, recognizing the value of a musical education, providing support and encouragement through the good times and the bad times, allowing ability to grow naturally. This requires commitment, perseverance, patience, and above all, faith. The result is well-worth the effort.
My Studio Knows the Feeling of Anticipation......
Each spring, as I write my yearly newsletter and student evaluations, I reflect upon my teaching experiences over the past year. I also cannot help but to begin to wonder what the future will bring.
This year, as I prepare to enter my forty-sixth year of teaching, things have not changed. I look forward with great anticipation to meeting new faces and renewing old acquaintances. My sincere thanks to all of you!