Draped over a stone wall as I rounded the corner was a huge, sprawling oak tree. The partially hidden, old historic home appeared as I made my way with my young daughter in tow, up a curved driveway. Two stone stair cases led one to the large landing area and great front door. As we stood there, we could hear another piano lesson still in session. Easing our way into the large entrance room, we quietly approached an old couch by the doorway in what was originally intended to be a living room. Moving some papers aside, we sat down to wait my daughter’s turn. We watched and listened. As Arlene Sagan completed the piano lesson, we prepared for my daughter Ariella to join her at the scuffed and battered looking grand piano.
With glee in her voice as she clasped her hands together, Arlene would welcome Ariella to have a seat on the piano bench. Arlene, who embodied a Mary Poppins personality but was dressed in sagging pants and an oversized, rumpled shirt, would draw Ariella away to the musical world of Beethoven and Mozart. Ariella would be taken on a challenging adventure, where the complex melodies of musical masters would become comfortably close friends.
I usually brought some reading material or other quiet activity to occupy my time as I sat through the 30 minute lesson. Looking up occasionally, my eyes would move past the rows of shelving with thousands of music scores, along with file cabinets heaped on top with the likes of music manuscripts, notebooks or recycled papers. Between an assortment of cups and other miscellaneous objects, the fireplace mantel and nearby walls would be adorned with flamboyantly colored drawings and thank you cards given to her by young piano students.
“You have a very good touch,” I would hear her say. “You keep this up and you can go very far!” Recycled paper would be grabbed from her pile to list music assignments on and write scales to work on in the coming week. Sometimes music pieces were copied from old scores and given to Ariella. A couple piano books Ariella used would be marked up by Arlene, where special attention would be needed. If Ariella had a week with little practice time, Arlene would shrug her shoulders and say, “That’s OK. It happens.” From Arlene’s perspective, piano playing was to be a fun activity, not a chore.
When the lesson was over, Arlene would grace us with her sweet smile, along with words of encouragement and praise. We both felt a little taller as we made our way out the great front door and down the stone steps…to return the next week. Thank you to Arlene, for leading my daughter in this lovely, musically magical, journey.