The man and I had nothing in common. We weren’t the same gender or skin color, we didn’t hail from the same country, or even the same century; and yet I was moved so deeply by him that I could have cried. I was nine years old and in awe at the complete and total way that he captured my soul. Sitting in the car my mother was driving, I was enraptured by the sounds that were coming from the radio. It was a classical station. The last bars of a song I now know as Moonlight Sonata played. At the time I didn’t understand my need to shiver at the emotions rising from my small frame, but from that moment on, this song became my favorite piece of classical music; touching me in a way that no other song from that genre did.
Shortly after that, I was privileged to go to a live music concert. The endeavor was to interest children in classical music. The star performer was a man I only remember by the name of Mr. Corey. I was a child who was raised to be unfailingly respectful to adults, and so still to this day his first name never comes to mind. My mother had met him because she was looking for a teacher who was inexpensive to instruct my older brother and sister how to play the piano. I went along with my mother and sat in the car waiting for my older siblings to be finished with their lessons, conscious of the fact that somehow being able to make gorgeous sounds, such as those I had heard at the concert, were in part a result of having these lessons.
Once a week they went for their lessons, and as usual I waited in the car. That day my mother asked me to get out of the car and come meet Mr. Corey. I was afraid to meet him, always having been a shy child and very cautious of strangers. I’d heard stories from my siblings about how demanding he was. They weren’t lying.
I still remember the smell of his house being something pleasant but indefinable, like dust, old books, and the warm, woody, resinous scent of the piano I stood in front of. The piano; a sturdy brown upright, was the first thing you saw when you entered his house. The house was styled in the typical 80’s décor, mousy beige carpet, wooden picture frames, and an earth-toned couch and coffee table. Mr. Corey was an average looking man with short wavy brown hair, a beard and a mustache. He wore a non-descript wardrobe of dark brown slacks, and a light brown sweater-vest over a white shirt rolled up to pale, somewhat hairy elbows. Mr. Corey looked at us both for a moment before asking my mother to leave; a request which she wasn’t at all thrilled about. No parents were allowed during his lesson time. I realized even at my young age that this was an audition for me. He didn’t take just any student. After my mother left the house the lesson began.
“Come here,” he commanded.
I was pliant enough to do what I was told, and immediately came forward.
“Sit down at the piano,” was all he said
I sat on the wooden bench of his brown piano. He took a step to the left side of the piano
“How old are you?” he asked.
“I’m nine years old,” I replied.
“My name is Mr. Corey. And you are?”
“My name is Adina,” I barely got out.
“What? Speak up child,” he barked gruffly
Then I heard him mumble something about me being a bit older then most of his students. He usually started with students no older then 6 years of age.
“So,” he said suddenly “play something.”
I sat puzzled as to what I was supposed to do. Wasn’t he, the teacher, supposed to tell me what to do? Well I guess he was, I thought, as he stood expectantly; his demanding eyes staring straight into me. I felt as if I wasn’t worthy to be sitting at his piano because I had heard him play before. I could only ever aspire to be that good at an instrument whose operation I knew almost nothing about.
“Well don’t just sit there play something!” He rubbed his beard and mustache, pacing back and forth on the beige carpet impatiently.
I started to play a pointless mixture of notes that sounded like gibberish. My nonsensical clanking lasted for a few moments before he sat down with a flourish next to me on the piano bench. He looked down at me, his expression suggesting that I had just possibly beaten a small kitten to death or committed some other heinous act.
“Stop! Enough!” he nearly shouted.
Placing his hands on the ivory keyboard he begin to deftly play some chords in rapid concession, smiling satisfactorily as if atoning for my former musical sins.
“You will learn this,” he smiled sternly, “But for now we will start with the basics. So are you right or left handed?”
“Right,” I said after debating it a bit.
I stared at him with a small grin, so eager to begin that I almost forgot to be shy… almost. His hand gently took my tiny right one and pointed the index finger making it strike the keys corresponding to EGBDF.
“Every Good Boy Does Fine. Now you do it.”
I followed his instructions and found that they seemed to stick in my memory somehow. I practiced for a bit before he moved on to a new phrase F.A.C.E. I also picked up those instructions with alarming speed. He smiled and I could tell he was somewhat impressed. My little heart soared. After teaching me the difference between the white and black keys, he proceeded to show me middle C. Then He told me to locate all the C’s on the keyboard. It shocked me to realize that I could find them all with relative ease. Then just like that, the lesson was over, despite the fact that I didn’t want it to be. Deep down inside I feared that I wouldn’t be back; knew that I would never again know the pleasure of the creative kinship I had shared. He seem pleased with my progress and was excited to call my mother back in. When my mother entered the room he smiled and clapped his hands together.
“She shows promise”, he beamed. Then he frowned a bit. “She has to start right away of course while she is still young and her mind is flexible.” His hands rested on both sides of his waist causing his elbows to jut out at his sides, and I could tell he meant business. “I could get her to a professional level, but I must see her two times a week.” His hand went to his beard again. “Lessons will be $40 dollars per month. I’m taking her at a discount because I really want to work with her. I want to see her again next week,” he said.
That was the last time I ever saw Mr. Corey. When we got home, I heard my parents discussing the matter, and my father told my mother that he couldn’t afford the lessons for my two siblings that were currently attending Mr. Corey’s sessions, let alone me. I remember crying for days. The times that I wasn’t in tears, I would sit at the old, black, out-of-tune, Yamaha owned, endeavoring to practice the little I’d learned.
Over the ensuing years, my love of the piano didn’t fade away. If I happened to pass a music store, I would go inside and sit at the piano just to dream. It wasn’t until I turned 15 years old that I sat back down at the piano again with a new determination. I was going to teach myself how to read music. I gave it a valiant effort, and did succeed to some degree, but it was apparent even to me, that I was developing bad practice habits and that I needed professional lessons in order to progress. Finally, I was able to attain weekly lessons, but they didn’t last long. Again I was told that they were too expensive and they ended all too soon. Crushed, I decided to quit music and focus my efforts on looking for a practical career, ending all my attempts to play piano. My love affair with music however is still very much alive within me. Music has always been an integral part of my life. I know I could never live in a world without it. Since then, my tastes have broadened to include a myriad of genres, and artists. To think, it all started with Moonlight Sonata; a melody that will always have a special place in my heart. Because of it, a large spark of musical passion was ignited; forever stoking my creative fires in a way I am only now beginning to fully understand.