The word "recital" refers to "a musical program given by a soloist, soloists, or small ensembles" according to Webster's dictionary. Last weekend my granddaughter participated in a small recital along with other students of a well-respected piano teacher from this area. This lively and energetic lady is at this point more than four score and 10, but she loves her work and she loves her students and takes pride in them.
Many of the students who played at the recital had parents who in years past took lessons from this same teacher. They are country people and people who home school. When my daughter took her lessons she was in high school. These were not her first piano lessons, but the lessons that allowed her to play utilizing the chords to enhance her musical renditions.
It was great to see Ruth again although she said she probably would not have recognized me after all of these years. What I love about Ruth is that she manages to keep up with the current trends. The music that was played was a mix of classical along with music from famous Broadway musicals. If a student wanted to play a certain piece and the music was not available in a simple enough version, that student had a personal copy written out by the instructor.
Students ranged in age from the youngest who recently turned 6 to several who were experiencing probably their last recital. She had the students play by families instead of by their length of study. It was great to see the talent develop and build as the seasoned veterans went through their paces right along with the newbies.
This recital was in an intimate setting, so it was not scary. The students simply had to walk up front and take a seat by the piano. The beloved teacher sat nearby to help as needed.
The atmosphere was completely different from what I remember. My recitals were scary. My teacher was scary. My teacher was very stern. Miss Steiger was a large woman - big boned, not really fat. The most distinctive characteristic was her flame red hair. I knew she had to be gray underneath, but on the surface it was bright red. Her bright pink cheeks and bright blue eye shadow also stuck out in my memory.
I only took lessons for a few years, and I hated them. I did not appreciate the discipline of having to practice every day while my friends were out playing and waiting for me to be done.
When it was recital time, we went to the nearby college to use their auditorium. The music teachers of the area put all of their students together for one recital. At the practice session I was introduced to a large auditorium, a baby grand piano, and a very large stage.
Miss Steiger expected all of her students to memorize their recital pieces. I was scared that I would forget something and have to begin the selection from the beginning. I was probably about 7 years old when I took part in my first recital. That baby grand piano was awfully large. I think my first piece was something about a waterfall. I remember it had all sorts of runs up and down the keyboard.
I made it through without embarrassing myself or my mother. The next week it was back to lessons. When we finished with a book Miss Steiger allowed us to pick a small statuette of a classical composer. I had a whole box of the little white things that looked like they were made of salt.
The next recital went better. Of course, the song that I played was much harder than that first one. I remember that it was a march. I loved the marches because the rhythm was so pronounced. That year I was ready to play. I no longer worried about the size of the piano or the long walk up the aisle to the stage, but I did worry about the memorization.
I still have the music for that piece along with the sticker inside to let me know that I did it well enough to pass on to the next selection. When I taught kindergarten I used that piece whenever we did a rhythm band. The students loved the beat as much as I did. I remember how fascinated the children were when I played the piano. I positioned it so that they could see the keys. They liked to watch my fingers as they flew up and down the keyboard. I suspect many of them had never seen anyone play the piano before.
Music is a powerful tool. It is a shame that the arts get such a bad rap when it comes to education. They are part of the curriculum just as much as social studies and science. Not all students are going to be musical geniuses, but neither are they all going to be outstanding scientists, mathematicians or sports players. All I mean here is that the arts deserve the same exposure that other subjects get. There just may be a budding musician or artist that can profit from instruction.
My children also took piano lessons. I think that each one took for a couple years. During that time they learned to read music. That proved very useful later on when they became involved in marching band and chorus. They took their lessons at school, but not during the school day. They had to stay after school to get their lessons. Recitals were held in the school cafeteria. Since it was a very familiar place it was not as scary.
Congratulations to all of the young people who took part in the recital. It was a trip down memory lane for me.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.