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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Book Entry 52: 1961 Piano Recital

            My first piano teacher was Grace Qualle in Hughson.  I remember how beautiful her house always seemed.  It was so organized and clean and new.  It was different from my house more for the feel of it though.  Her house felt clean and ready for me to sit and learn.  My house felt lived in, had my stuff and the stuff of my family, my house was home.  
         Mrs. Qualle was always finely dressed.  She wore jewelry and pretty shoes.  I remember her wearing slacks one day and thinking she was awfully rebellious in a time when slacks were still new for women to wear other than to pic nicks or while riding bikes.
          When Mrs. Qualle had a recital for her students it was in the Hughson Methodist Church.  I absolutely hated recitals.  Everything had to be memorized and while we were permitted to take our music to the piano we were instructed not to look at it.  I made it through Mrs. Qualle’s recitals but I think I peeked a lot at the music.
          My second piano teach was Mrs. Cockran in Modesto.  Her house was an older one with parlor where students would wait for their turn at the piano.  It was always dimly lit inside and had lots of pictures of old people on the walls.  Mrs. Cockran was always dressed like she was on her way to church with nice dresses and those funny old-lady high heels that weren't really very high at all.  She seemed so untouchable to me.
      When Mrs. Cockran had recitals they were at the Modesto Junior College Auditorium.  You can see in this photo we were instructed to sit up straight, curl our fingers, wear nice clothes, and start the metronome so our timing would be good.  Of course I wanted to do perfectly not only for my teacher but also to make myself look good to my parents.  I remember the night this photo was taken.  I had begun a ten page piece.  I played for about one minute, quickly peeked at the audience, and totally went blank!.  I could feel redness sweeping up the back of my neck and overflowing into my face.  I was paralyzed.  I couldn’t move.  I stared at the music.  
          Then came an unexpected and much appreciated gentle whisper from over my shoulder.  Mrs. Cockran was saying, “Joyce, it’s ok, you can do it.  Start from the beginning and one…two…three…”  Suddenly she seemed less staunchy and more like a grandmother.  My fingers took off.  I don’t know if I looked at the music or not but I made it from beginning to end without a single mistake.  When I finished the audience applauded and stood.  I stood too and took my bow.  
          When the recital was over several people told me how proud they were of me.  It ended up being a night with a big failure but an even bigger victory.  A few simple steady words of encouragement from my teacher made the difference and helped shape me into being able to play the organ at our church every Sunday for the next thirty years.  

1 comment:

  1. I had to comment on both yesterday and todays,, yesterday it wouldn't let me,, I love reading your post and this will make a great book!Thanks so much for sharing,,


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