Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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Teachings

Bechstein Firmenschriftzug

Last night, I was out “with the dry cattle,” as Grandmother used to say. So today, I didn’t have a blog ready to go. But my friend saved me.

I’m sharing an email I received from my forever friend (ie: I don’t remember a time before we were friends) Cathy.

I have to tell you a little about her. Cathy is one of those women who excels in everything she does. We started first grade together. When we graduated from high school, I was in the top 10% of our class, she was our valdictorian.

We both took piano lessons while in school, she still plays for her church.

We both started college at the same time. She continued until she was on the faculty at a college in Colorado. One year, she was named as one of the top women in America.

Even with all her accomplishents, she’s still my friend. Gotta love a woman like that!

Forwarded by Cathy–

At the prodding of my friends I am writing this story. My name is Mildred Honor and I am a former elementary school music teacher from Des Moines , Iowa .

I have always supplemented my income by teaching piano lessons – something I have done for over 30 years. During those years I found that children have many levels of musical ability, and even though I have never had the
pleasure of having a prodigy, I have taught some very talented students.

However, I have also had my share of what I call ‘musically challenged’ pupils – one such pupil being Robby.

Robby was 11 years old when his mother (a single mom) dropped him off for his first piano lesson. I prefer that students (especially boys) begin at an earlier age, which I explained to Robby. But Robby said that it had always been his mother’s  dream to hear him play the piano, so I took him as a student.

Well, Robby began his piano lessons and from the beginning I thought it was a hopeless endeavor. As much as Robby tried, he lacked the sense of tone and basic rhythm needed to excel. But he dutifully reviewed his scales and some elementary piano pieces that I require all my students to learn.  Over the months he tried and tried while I listened and cringed and tried to encourage him.

At the end of each weekly lesson he would always say ‘My mom’s going to hear me play someday’.  But to me, it seemed hopeless. He just did not have any inborn  ability.

I only knew his mother from a distance as she dropped Robby off or waited in her aged car to pick him up. She always waved and smiled, but never dropped in.

Then one day Robby stopped coming for his lessons. I thought about calling him, but assumed that because of his lack of ability he had decided to pursue something else. I was also glad that he had stopped coming – he was a bad advertisement for my teaching!

Several weeks later I mailed a flyer recital to the students’ homes. To my surprise, Robby (who had received a flyer) asked me if he could be in the recital. I told him that the recital was for current pupils and that because he had dropped out, he really did not qualify.

He told me that his mother had been sick and unable to take him to his piano lessons, but that he had been practicing. ‘Please Miss Honor.  I’ve just got to play’ he insisted. I don’t know what led me to allow him to play in the recital – perhaps it was his insistence or maybe something inside of me saying that it would be all right.

The night of the recital came and the high school gymnasium was packed with parents, relatives and friends. I put Robby last in the program, just before I was to come up and thank all the students and play a finishing piece. I thought that any damage he might do would come at the end of the program and I could always salvage his poor performance through my ‘curtain closer’.

Well, the recital went off without a hitch, the students had been practicing and it showed. Then Robby came up on the stage. His clothes were wrinkled and his hair looked as though he had run an egg beater through it.  ‘Why wasn’t he dressed up like the other students?’  I thought. ‘Why didn’t his mother at least make him comb his hair for this special night?’

Robby pulled out the piano bench, and I was surprised when he announced that he had chosen to play Mozart’s Concerto No..21 in C Major. I was not prepared for what I heard next. His fingers were light on the keys, they even danced nimbly on the ivories. He went from pianissimo to fortissimo, from allegro to virtuoso; his suspended chords that Mozart demands were magnificent!

Never had I heard Mozart played so well by anyone his age.

After six and a half minutes he ended in a grand crescendo, and everyone was on their feet in wild applause!  Overcome and in tears, I ran up onstage and put my arms around Robby in joy.  ‘I have never heard you play like that Robby, how did you do it?

Through the microphone Robby explained: ‘Well, Miss Honor, remember I told you that my mom was sick? Well, she actually had cancer and passed away this morning. And well, she was born deaf, so tonight was the first time she had ever heard me play, and I wanted to make it special.’

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house that evening. As the people from Social Services led Robby from the stage to be placed into foster care, I noticed that even their eyes were red and puffy.

I thought to myself then how much richer my life had been for taking Robby as my pupil.

No, I have never had a prodigy, but that night I became a prodigy . . . of Robby.  He was the teacher and I was the pupil, for he had taught me the meaning of perseverance and love and believing in yourself, and may be even taking a chance on someone and you didn’t know why.

Robby was killed years later in the senseless bombing of the Alfred P. Murray Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April, 1995.

This account makes me wonder, what about us? When faced with a choice, do we act with compassion or do we pass up that opportunity and leave the world a bit colder in the process?

May God Bless you today, tomorrow and always.

If God didn’t have a purpose for us, we wouldn’t be here!

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.

Leave the rest to God.

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Wowed Wednesday

Yesterday was Tombstone Tuesday, so today must be Wowed Wednesday. (To be honest, what wows me is people. Must be that curiosity gene.)

Okay, I know I just talked about walking on Friday,

but go with me on this. 🙂

My walking buddy and I charged past some great yardscapes yesterday.

A tree challenged witch.

A spider infested house.

And even a brand new neighborhood graveyard, which just recently sprung up. Shades of The ‘Burbs. *Shiver*

But the house that stopped us in our tracks is a very familiar one to me. It’s the house where I took piano lessons from the time I was in second grade. It’s the place I walked to once a month for Piano Club.

The home’s current owner and one of her beautiful daughters were there, putting on the finishing touches when we power walked up 😉 and screeched to a halt.

We said hello and told them how beautiful their decorations are. Then I asked for permission to take pictures. And since we’re all from the same Small Town World (I used to smile when the sisters came in the dress shop) I took the chance to chat a bit.

We had such a great talk! I loved the few moments we got to hang together and wished we had more.

Beautiful yardscape, ladies. Love it! And more, I had so much fun catching up. Trouble is, now I want to know more.

It’s really not my fault. It has to be that curiosity gene.


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Tombstone Wednesday :)

Snippet of Fantasie-Impromptu

Image via Wikipedia

Hey! Walking here! (What movie is that?)

Did that sound like the Big City? LOL.

I’m not good at sounding as if I’m from a place where people don’t chat when they stand in line together. Where they don’t make eye contact. Where people don’t care about the lives of those around them.

I’m a true small town world guy.

Back to walking. I’ve started walking again since the temperatures have dropped below a hundred. (To be honest, I waited until it dropped below ninty.)

Yesterday my newest DIL, the musical one, and I walked in the cemetery together. I enjoy spending time with her so much! It’s amazing how good my boys were at choosing their women. 🙂

As we walked, I told her stories and pointed out where people I knew were buried. I showed her the twins headstone their daddy made, which I wish I could bring home and care for. (I need to call the city office and see if they know who those babies are and what year they were born and buried.)

We walked on and I took her to my piano teacher’s headstone. Patti Adams Shriner was her name. She’s buried next to her father (I believe) but I didn’t see a husband’s headstone. Maybe she was divorced. I didn’t think to ask when I was a kid. (I was just a little intimidated by her.)

Mrs. Shriner had suffered a broken hip sometime before I started taking lessons from her, so each time I went into her house, it smelled like Deep Heat or Ben Gay. Remember those rub-on pain relievers?

She had two pianos. A studio piano (I think she used it when she and someone else played dueling pianos) and big, black, shiny grand piano, which we took our lessons on. Imagine a tiny 2nd grader (she liked her students to be able to read before they started taking lessons.) one hand on the magnificent keyboard, plunking out, 1-2-3-rest. 1-2-3-rest. 2-1-2-3. 1-rest-1-rest.

♪♫ Here we go. Up a row. To a birthday party. ♪♫

♫♪ Dolly, dear. Sandman’s near. You will soon be sleeping. ♫♪

And all the while, this beautiful woman had tons of musical talent coursing through her. She’d play for us sometimes. When she did, it was magical. My favorite song she played was Fantasie Impromptu by Chopin.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=qa0Z6g1XJkU

That was a girlie version. The one below sounds more like the way Mrs. Shriner played.

http://youtu.be/jwZFdKHl8dY

If you listed to both, you’ll hear the difference. I liked Mrs. Shriner’s version best. I took lessons from Mrs. Shriner for six years. When I changed to another teacher, she told me I “played like I was killing snakes.” 🙂 Then explained I had a man’s touch, rather than the sweet delicate touch a woman (or girl) normally has.

I don’t play anymore–at least for anyone but myself. It takes time and practice to play well enough for others to hear, and I don’t take the time to practice. Right now, I’m trying to learn to be a good writer.

But I enjoy the little bit of knowledge I received from Mrs. Shriner. And I love good classical piano.

That’s the music to Fantasie Impromptu at the bottom of her headstone. Beautiful, isn’t it?