My first piano teacher retired this weekend. Her last recital was Saturday.
I remember those recitals. The fear. Butterflies in your stomach. Gripping the metal sides of the chair to stop your hands from sweating. The excitement. The feeling of elation and wanting to go back up and keep going when it was over.
That’s something I lost, eventually. The wanting to keep going at the end of a performance. When I finished my ARCT exam, wanting to go back in and do it again was not what was running through my mind, that’s for sure.
That’s why Mrs. Myers was different from the multitudes of bizarrely frightening and frighteningly bizarre music teachers that are out there. You know. The ones who rap you on the knuckles when you mess up or tell you they know ten-year-olds who can play that perfectly, so why can’t you?
Mrs. Myers was demanding and she was strict. If I didn’t practice properly, she told me off for it. If I practiced well, I was rewarded with bigger and harder pieces, a spot further along in the recital program and the tantalising talk of competitions. Friends of mine got treats and prizes from their teachers, but Mrs. Myers knew how to get results out of this competitive kid.
Okay, and the odd jelly bean didn’t hurt.
Mrs. Myers taught me how to practice. How to read music. How to memorise and how to make sure what was memorised was really memorised. She taught me to remember where the fourth finger went when learning scales. To keep my thumb off the black keys. To lay off the damper when it wasn’t needed. To bring out the melody.
Then sometimes, she would stop and ask me what I was playing for fun. All the time you spend at the piano shouldn’t be work, she used to say. Sit down from time to time, and just play.
And that is Mrs. Myers. She who taught me to blur the line between work and play. She to whom I undoubtedly owe my career.