Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Student, Her Piano, and Rudolf Serkin... Honestly!

The following incident occurred around the midlife of my teaching career, and remains one of my more  memorable and rather strangely humorous memories:
A young woman contacted me concerning lessons on the piano, whereupon an arrangement was made to hear her perform. I found her to be quite accomplished, and found that she had pursued piano rather diligently during her school years, and now that she was established as a young mother(she was in her early thirties, as I recall)she had decided to reconnect with the piano.
And so we began. I came to her home each week and I quickly found out that the spinet she used was simply not sufficient for her needs and abilities. She played very well indeed. I suggested that she purchase a more substantial instrument, if she could afford such a transaction. Judy(her first name) asked me if a grand piano would be the appropriate size, and I unhesitatingly assured her that it would indeed make her most happy.
To interject: her home was not at all ostentatious, with quiet furnishings and colors - to me, a typical middle class home.
Well, after a few weeks  I was absolutely overwhelmed when she quietly told me who she was. She had married the third generation son of one of the giant  food producers, whose name we had, for years, seen plastered  in countless markets. These people simply made an art of not revealing the immense power of wealth they possessed, which I thought, personally, an admirable thing to do.
And so I realized that Judy could buy and pay for a dozen concert grands, if she so desired.
I then thought that she should visit the local Steinway branch and choose a piano to her liking after trying a number of them out.
She agreed; and so, about two weeks after my suggestion, I appeared at her home  for her weekly lesson.
Upon entering the room, not only was the little spinet gone, but replaced by a full size Steinway grand. It was  one of the  most magnificent instruments I had ever seen. With mouth agape, I slowly circled the piano, and noticed an inscription  inside. There were two words - Rudolf Serkin. With no trace of understanding I asked Judy what the two names were doing in this instrument. She then told me that this was the piano that Rudolf Serkin had chosen to be his piano whenever he came to Boston. She was told that it was not for sale.
And there it was in her home.
I asked no further.
The piano lessons went on for years with Judy, on a piano that bears a story that fits no category of fiction that I know of...
What was Serkin's reaction when he next visited Boston?



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