Imagine being a really gifted musician and probably a great composer and finding out rather late in life that, before becoming world famous, you’re going to have to take a music lesson. As I faced this predicament, I remembered the Gasse School of Music was only a few blocks away.
I knew the school offered lessons to adults as well as children and I signed up for my first-ever piano lesson. My teacher was Ms. Hulya Alpakin. I thought of impressing her right off the bat by playing some of my original compositions. Instead, I took a more humble approach, carrying an armload of piano books for first-graders that I’d gotten from a neighbor.
I confessed to Alpakin that I was completely self-taught. I hadn’t even learned “Hot Cross Buns” on the recorder. She seemed delighted to have a novice, whose raw genius hadn’t been influenced by other teachers.
I was thinking the lesson might include some striking of the keys with the fingers but Alpakin sensed I wasn’t ready for that. She took a visual approach, drawing these parallel lines and marking them with dots and circles. She said they were notes.
During the next half hour, I learned that, “Grandma bakes donuts Friday afternoon,” that “All cows eat grass” and of course, “Every good boy does fine.” She also taught me how many beats to give each note. Then it got real complicated when she diagrammed half notes, quarter notes-I felt like I was lost in Algebra class again.
The best part was learning how to sit at the piano. I held my back straight, curved my hands and kept my elbows from flying out. Though I was yet to hit a single note, she said I looked like someone who was playing the piano.
I was also encouraged when she said I could dispense with the first-grade books. She recommended some books for “older beginners.” When the lesson ended, she assigned some homework.
Practicing-I knew that would make or break my music career. The next day, I forced myself to sit down at the keyboard and learn notes. I immediately had a breakthrough, playing “Mary Had A Little Lamb” in its entirety. Then I whipped through “Old McDonald.” By the end of my practice session, I was hunting and pecking the theme from one of my favorite symphonies.
I can’t wait to get my new instruction books and have my next lesson. The instructors at Gasse have seen many adults like me take up an instrument, or return to one they abandoned in their youth. The school has special recitals for adults. They’re held at private homes and include a little wine. Thankfully children aren’t invited. I don’t want anyone but me playing “Hot Cross Buns.”