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Archive for July 14th, 2009

When thinking of music institutes one mostly thinks of small children learning music in small group settings, teens in ensemble playing, daily private lessons and recitals.  That’s what my experience had been until a few years ago.  I looked at my class lists finding one of my lesson groups was for an hour lesson with two retired women.  I had taught adults before, so although a bit unusual in this setting, I was prepared.

The two women “L” and “M” had been taking lessons for a few years with the same teacher.  They were obviously good friends and comfortable with their music abilities.  L was tall and willowy and appeared a bit on the conservative side.  M , considerably older,  was short and compact with a self assured, observant nature.  Each woman, extremely intelligent,  was delightful individually, but together they were a dynamic team.  They were so endearing I knew the minute I met them I would look forward to their lesson each day.

While one had her lesson the other watched and cheered from the side lines.  They took notes for each other so that they could remember all I said.  Each suggestion I gave they found new and exciting.  I could literally see the light bulbs go on and they took what I said as gospel.  The next day they would tell me of their practice sessions and could not wait to show me how much better they played.  Their wit and enthusiasm kept me in laughter.

The laughter during the lessons is what I will always remember most.  During one lesson M had played exceptionally well and in a silly moment I gave her a sticker as I would have a young child.  She was so proud of the sticker she strutted around and told L  that she was so much better.  The next day L impressed me and earned two stickers.  M hung her head in shame.  She said, “Oh great!  I will never hear the end of this!”  And so our lessons continued with the goal to earn stickers.

The next year, I looked at my class lists and found L and M once again listed.  How delighted I was when I found out they had  requested to have me as their teacher.  This time they came with their own stickers (much fancier than the ones I had, they pointed out.)  The lessons continued as rollicking as before.  When not in class or practicing, L and M attended all the recitals and other events on campus.  They marveled at the skills of the little ones which prompted them to practice even more.

I shared stories of our lessons with my family and was most pleased to introduce L and M to my husband and children.  My relationship with L and M blossomed beyond music and they took an interest in my family as well.  We began sending Christmas cards and M would e-mail me in anticipation of the institute.  I would once again be their teacher.

Since they had shown such cleverness, I played into it by bringing stickers that had attitude.  The stickers were little dogs saying sarcastic things.  Ironically enough, I was able to find just the appropriate comment about their playing through the stickers.  Fun and silliness.

That summer I noticed a decline in M’s health.  She had developed a cough and tired more easily.  She confessed to having fallen asleep on the keyboard while in a practice room.  At Christmas I sent M a card; there was no response.

Upon arriving at the institute this year my class list had an envelop attached.  Inside was an e-mail sent to the institute for me.  It was from L.   They would not be coming this year.  M had passed away.  It was a very nice letter from L; she said that M was very fond of me.

I thought about them all week as I taught.  I missed them.  Music has brought many wonderful people into my life.  Music and education transcend the ages.  M was a teacher.  She and L taught me a lot about learning and relationships.

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