I was quite proficient and successful with my piano lessons, although they were nothing special. I practiced, I played, I mastered the pieces. I actually shone at my senior piano recital, playing Lecuona’s “La Comparsa” and Beethoven’s “Pathetique Sonata.” So when I went off to college, I decided to take an elective in piano. After I played for the teacher, however, he wondered if I had interest in “any other instrument.” I said, yes, I always wanted to play the violin. After all, I owned a violin. My father had purchased one for me and I treasured it. I could not play it, but I treasured it. So, I signed up to take violin lessons instead of piano.
The violin instructor was a wiry Italian, passionate and determined. He gestured a lot. He was at the college as an exchange professor, and he had experience as a concert performer. I entered the studio with fear and excitement.
After a period of introductions, which were courteous and professional, he asked what pieces I might play so as to judge my competency on the instrument. Well, I couldn’t do much. After some worry, he said we’d meet again at the next session he hoped with more success. I was so stressed, I developed a boil on my arm, and my arm got swollen. I had it taken care of, but when I returned for the next lesson, my arm was still sore and swollen. He “tisked,” and said we would postpone the violin lesson. He talked instead of harmony and notes, musicians and ambitions.
The next time I attended the studio, my arm was well, but my nerves were shot. I “played” what I could, and explained I had no prior violin experience. He thought for a while, stared out the window, paced back and forth, and finally with a wonderful smile, suggested I take up the “PIANO.” There, he said, you have a piano that already is tuned for you. I told him I had come to the violin from the piano professor. Ah, but what could we do? By now, the semester was half over, my elective course needed to be counted. He paced back and forth and finally suggested I join the college accapella choir. He assured me he would talk with the director in my behalf.
I finished that one elective class singing with the choir. We had a final concert performance, and I was thrilled to be engaged. I recall the piece was “Dona Nobis Pacem. ” I have always loved that piece. I love hearing it sung. Each time I hear it, I smile, thinking about that professor and his errant student. I love music, but I don’t have perfect pitch. I enjoy being in the audience. It’s a matter of perspective. I also love telling this story, and each time I tell it, it gets a little more dramatic, sure, with a few new innuendos, embellishments, and trills. I wrote about it one time (years ago) and sent it to the Wall Street Journal. It was published, and I received a $500.00 check for it. With that bit of success, I had to admit my musical career had blossomed.