Something More Than Piano Lessons. Judith Chirnside

In the late 40’s it was decided I should have piano lessons.

This was not my idea at all. Why? Life was free. I could walk outside and just play with friends. We played hopscotch, jelly roll, mother may I and pies. We played, one two thee red light. We drew jelly roll on the pavement. We jumped rope. We played French rope. We chanted “All in together girls” as two stood swinging the rope. WE STAYED OUT TILL THE STREET LIGHTS CAME ON.
An old second hand upright piano arrived at my house.

Piano lessons would commence. My teacher was just a walk away. He had taught many to play popular music. I suffered though scales. Mr. G counted with a constant one two three, pour… He never said four.

The lessons finally gave me a song I could relate to called “A Bunch of Daisies”. Oh yes, I made up words and sang away, but failed piano lessons! This was not good. My grandfather came from Wales and was a piano teacher and church organist. Surely talent was in the genes? He died at an early age. Sadly, I never knew him.

My neighbors had a player piano. Oh my! All you had to do was just put the paper cylinder in. It was all punched with holes. Then you pumped pedals and got piano music. The keys on the piano were as magic. They just depressed and released to rag time songs. Wonderful … no lessons. This was automatic music … no one two three pour!! I loved it!

The most important thing about my music lessons would be later. That is when I met “Gracie”.

Mrs. Johnson was Gracie. She was a phenomenal and influential person. The first piano lesson was how to hold ones hands on the keys. Yes, hold an orange, then in that exact position put your hands on the keys…play only with your fingertips. Now flatten your wrists so you can balance a wooden ruler on them. Hmmmm, I can’t forget my first lesson. She taught only classical music.

She had the most interesting home. Just being there was an experience. The lessons were taught on a grand piano. The room was like a museum with interesting collections of books and whatever could a 10 year old absorb? I knew I loved it and loved my new teacher. Her huge golden retriever lay at the gate dividing her kitchen and dining room. I can imagine now, the eyes rolling at some of the sour notes the students hit by mistake.

Gracie was absorbed in teaching culture. Her students would have a recital in a hall. One would learn to be gracious. Before playing, address your audience, play your piece, smile and then then curtsy after the selected piece was done.

After several years of lessons, I played the lovely Fur Elise by Beethoven for my recital, but the only thing is, it was after Memorial Day weekend when I PLAYED SOFTBALL with cousins in a freshly mowed poison ivy patch. My bottom was oozing from the ivy poison. I wore a horse hair crinoline petticoat to make my skirt fluff out perfectly for the recital. Yikes! Awful!!! Present, play, bow and smile??? Terrible, calamine lotion was so needed, and it would not even touch the ivy mess.

Gracie taught perfection. The last of this story is phenomenal.

One day at lessons, the windows were open. Next door to her home was a playground with a chain link fence. There were kids playing. They were shooting hoops. A word was shouted. Gracie got up from the chair from which she was teaching from AND bolted!

She just flew out the door. There was a child of color playing and somebody used a disgraceful word regarding his color. Gracie screamed and yelled how that should never be said. She was so right and a lesson I never forgot. I can feel her passion now for justice and perfection.

How fortunate to be in the influence of such a good teacher. All this happened in the 50’s .It happened because it was right!

Then, we said it takes a village to raise a child.
I wonder how it would be now.

© 2017

 

By | 2017-11-07T12:02:22+00:00 November 13th, 2017|Guest Author, Stories of the 1940's and 1950's|4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. peter voccio jr November 13, 2017 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful story written like a Pro.
    A story about a wonderful childhood and
    much more thanks for sharing.

    • Ed November 13, 2017 at 5:47 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Peter. Yes, Judy can write.

  2. Donna M. Horan November 13, 2017 at 11:03 pm - Reply

    I LOVE this story, but then again I am biased because Judy has been my friend for over 40 years – WRITE ON Judy!

    • Ed November 13, 2017 at 11:07 pm - Reply

      Great friend to have, Donna. A very fine writer, indeed.

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