Emma is a person I have taught once a week for 10 years. That adds up to a lot of time alone together, just her and me doggedly solving one musical puzzle after another. I didn’t realize until our time was over that I watched her grow up, sitting beside me on her piano bench. Our routine never varied. I always sat on her right, the piano was always in the same place at the same angle. My chair was always the same. I never saw the rest of her house, only the living room where the piano was. I never saw her outside of piano lessons and recitals, although I hope to now that our teacher-student relationship has ended. I have friends who are 20 years older and I guess I’m old enough now to have friends 20 years younger.
Emma started piano lessons with me as a beginner when she was 6 years old. I gently pressed her teeny fingers one at a time into the keys until she learned how to control her fingers individually. Now she is a delightfully cool, sardonic, cynical, smart, kind, and funny young woman who controls all 10 of her fingers just fine without me, thank you very much. We have a common geek love of science fiction, particularly Star Trek.
“Kirk!” she foolishly insists.
“No way. Picard!” Obviously. Patrick oh swoon, although I’d rather not know he’s 73 now. But still, swoon.
“Kirk!” and so it would go. We agreed that the new Star Trek reboots are the best thing ever though.
This year she discovered Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones. I was as pleased about this as if I had introduced them to her myself. I taught Emma classical music, pop, blues, folk, video game music, and most recently some choice 70’s rock. I taught her how to read music, how to transcribe music by ear, harmonic and melodic analysis, chords, arpeggios and scales, how to play good time with and without a metronome, how to play outside of time with tempo changes, rubato and fermata. How to subdivide rhythms evenly, how to play dynamics, and how to improvise her own musical expression. I told her many times that it’s always worth it to try unfamiliar music, that this is how you discover what you like and just as importantly, what you don’t like.
There’s a lot to like about Emma’s playing. A naturally healthy technique and posture, her willingness to follow suggestions and combine these with her own ideas, her calmness and subtlety, her accurate note reading skills and dedication to practicing. Some weeks were better than others, as it goes with all humans, but over the course of our time together she was on a pretty straight upward trajectory. However many hours I put in teaching her, she put in far more than that practicing my assignments.
Emma’s last lesson and last recital performance was a few weeks ago, this past June. Her mom cried when we said goodbye after our last Thursday 5:30-6:15pm session. I did too. How good her family was been to me over the years. How I appreciate their trust in me to guide their lovely daughter. Good luck and godspeed, Emma in whatever glorious things your future holds for you. And yes, I am serious about going to a Star Trek convention with you in costume.