Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Some Memories as a Teacher - Some of the Unexpected Exploits That Enhance My Reminiscences....

During one of my student recitals in my home, one of the performers  played  a Clementi Sonatina. Surprisingly, the Sonatina which was selected  never did 'see' the light of day. This being her first recital, she was so nervous that she performed  a different Sonatina than appeared on the program. Astoundingly, she did not miss a beat, even though upon beginning, she realized  what had been done.  After the recital, she and I shared a laugh or two(to her immense relief).
One of my adult students was known throughout the world of science as one of the pre-eminent engineers in his field, having been Director, for instance, of  construction of a giant radar station somewhere in the Pacific, and a summa  cum laude graduate of M.I.T. He also happened to be an accomplished pianist, and spent many years with me.  One of my choices at a particular time was one of the  great Kabalevsky Sonatas, which he dove into with the greatest  glee, as he loved this composer's piano music. On one night, as he was in the midst of learning the first movement, he played a section he had just learned; a section which contained a key change. When he played through this  newly learned portion, I could scarcely believe what I was hearing - he was playing it  in "B" flat major   -the problem was, that this section was in  "B" major. He, for a reason that was totally unavailable to both him and me, dove into the music and somehow went straight to the notes without seeing the alteration in the key signature. I believe that it constituted the weirdest experience I have ever undergone  in a long career of teaching, especially because the entire section  was played perfectly in a key that Kabalevsky had never contemplated. Do attempt to picture yourself as a fly on the wall of my studio when I gently pointed out to him what he had promulgated. We laughed about this incident for months after this memorable evening.
The  acclaimed composer Alan Hovhaness happened to be a high school graduate in the year 1928, as I recall, of the high school I was teaching in, and we invited him to celebrate the 50th year of his graduation by spending two or three days with us in a "Hovhaness  Jubilee." Hovhaness, living in Seattle at the time, accepted. The result  was an unforgettable experience for all of us on the faculty, but even more of a thrill for the students, as the composer actually conducted the high school orchestra in one of his compositions. During the three  days, students performed his music, with the composer in attendance most of the time. On one occasion, music that the composer had written especially for children was performed at one of the elementary schools. One of my students, aged 8 or 9, happened to be one of the performers, playing a one-pager - what I remember as vividly as his  pristine performance was a remark made directly thereafter; specifically, "that kid certainly played the  living crap out of that piece!"  One of my proudest moments!
At the Longy School, where I taught piano and theory, a particular recital included a student of mine, who  was to perform a piece that I had written for her - of course, any music performed had to be memorized. About a third of the way through, her memory took leave, and she was forced to leave the stage in a moment of personal  torture. As the recital went on, she approached me, and whispered in my ear that she would like to give it another try. She was so upset that she was in tears, most assuredly because she had felt that she had let me down. I thought a moment, and said that I would announce her after the final scheduled piece had been played. To make it brief - I went out on stage, and simply announced that Jill would play the piece. She played  it perfectly and with solid feeling -    the result was resounding applause for her display of strength and personal redemption. I could not have been prouder.

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