Posts Tagged ‘value of arts education’

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A Different Way to Say I Love You

February 14, 2021

Maine Voices

This was included in the Maine Sunday Telegram, February 14. It is a powerful story written by Kay Wheeler, a retired music teacher and musician living in Raymond. As Maine arts teachers take a break this week I hope you’re relaxing and taking time to reflect on the amazing work you’re doing during this challenging time. If you need a reminder of why your job is critical perhaps this story will help.

My career was music, playing and teaching violin. I taught at Ashley Hall School for girls (Barbara Bush went there) and the Charleston Academy of Music. I retired to Maine two years ago and now have time to write my memories.

I recently read in my Portland Press Herald that Tony Bennett has had Alzheimer’s for several years but still performs at home. The man in my life said, “How can that be?” And, I said, “Let me tell you about an experience I had approximately 15 years ago.”

While I was still teaching violin at the Charleston Academy of Music, Judith, the mother of one of my students, told me about a violin workshop in the same city where her former college roommate lived. Her former roomie played the violin and so did the woman’s young daughter. She invited my student and Judith and me to come down to Georgia, stay with her family and we would all go to the workshop together. Judith was willing to drive, and it sounded like a wonderful weekend. So we drove to Georgia on Friday.

Judith’s roomie had become a doctor and married a doctor. We arrived at their home later in the day. It was beautiful! The living room had a Steinway grand piano with a violin sitting on top of it.

We all visited for a while and then went to bed early to be well rested for the workshop. The next day, the workshop was very successful. We had a lovely dinner with our hostess and her husband and daughter. The plan was to stay that night and then leave for home the next morning.

After dinner, our hostess invited us to have cocktails with her father and mother, who lived in the little house next door. When her parents arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. Her father, almost 90, was a retired doctor. He was very handsome and well dressed. Same to be said for his lovely wife. They cam in, we were introduced and we all sat down for hors d’oeuvres and a drink.

After some pleasant conversation, our hostess asked her father if he would like to play piano for us. “Certainly,” he said. He got up and sat down at the piano, He lifted his hands and dropped them with power and positivity and played a Chopin polonaise without one hesitation or error. I was amazed and thrilled. He continued to play classical piano pieces by great composers. Then he began to play the “Meditation from Thais” by Jules Massenet. I’ve played that pieces so many times – it is one of my favorites. I asked the hostess if I could play the violin that was on the piano. She said, “Ms. Kay, that is why it is on the piano.”

I walked over to her father and asked if I might play along with him. He was delighted. Well, one singled to another and another and another. We played classical serious music for around 30 minutes. Then we played show tunes by ear. Then he looked at me and nodded and he switched to hymns. After another 30 minutes of hymns, we finished with “The Old Rugged Cross.” He stood up, signaled to me to take his hand and we bowed together. It was so enjoyable.

Then he walked over to his daughter while calling her name. He thanked her for a lovely evening, hugged her and told her he loved her. Then he said, “Come on, Mother, time for us oldies to retire to our abode.” He smiled, said, “Thank you” again to me, and they left.

As I turned to sit down and finish my drink, his daughter came over to me. She had tears in heroes, and some running down her cheeks. She took my hand and held it as she said, “Thank you so much for the concert. My father has Alzheimer’s and hasn’t known who I am for at least fiver years. But when he plays the piano, he always remembers me and hugs me and tells me he loves me.”

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