Old kitten on the keys

By Sandra Topp

I set about as a very mature age student just a couple of years ago, to learn to play keyboard. I spent considerable time looking for a teacher who was on my wavelength. A young woman in her forties, who lived nearby, offered to come to my home once a week, initially. She was only interested in some extra cash in hand, I realised quite quickly. However, I liked her style and tenacity. She was alone with four kids, husband  had flipped off with his secretary years ago.

This day time music teacher, was obviously bored to death from years of scales and kiddies sitting on a piano stool – “‘cos Mumma said I have to”. She bemoaned the fact the parents complained unendingly about their lack of progress, yet they obviously failed to ensure they practised at home. She was bored at work and fed up handling her own domestic challenges alone. I suppose she thought thirty minutes once a week with an old woman who paid cash on time, a reasonable sacrifice to help pay the bills.

We started slowly, I plucked up the nerve on the third lesson to tell her to get real, I didn’t have time for scales and theory, so just get on with the music. She smiled knowingly, and in the ensuing weeks, which became months, we progressed together. Her demeanour towards me changed, I was a dedicated student, having a lot of spare time. I practised for hours, not the fifteen minutes daily she tried in vain to get her younger students to comply with.

After twelve months I had the temerity to say I wanted to select my own music. Not that I didn’t love “‘Enya” and others she introduced me to, but I wanted to move on to the classics, and some old thirties and forties stuff . . . Gershwin, Cole Porter . . .

She hesitated, but was delighted with the first book I found, which set me going on what I call my classical snapshots repertoire. The main theme from Moonlight Sonata being a favourite. For me, the lessons were fun, and we were getting on well by then. I occasionally paid a couple of weeks in advance when bigger bills came in for her, but nothing out of line with my regular payment. As time went on, surprise! surprise! this wonderful music teacher had, without me even realising, taught me so much about the theory and practice of music that together make music the discipline that it is.

I never played for my family except on one occasion when they asked how my lessons were going, just making a polite enquiry. It was after we had had dinner together for yet another family celebration, and I had enjoyed a few drinks.

Hubby, unsolicited, carried my keyboard out and set it up and demanded, “Let ‘er rip love, play ’emThe Entertainer.” So, full of dutch courage, I thought, why not? and sat at the keyboard to truly, “let er rip.”

Oh! dear what a disaster, they never asked me to play again and I have never offered. My granddaughter consoled me, and for a few months asked me to play  some pieces for her, which then prompted her to learn keyboard. Now she doesn’t need to ask me to play, she struggles through her own pieces, which I applaud loudly, cringing with every wrong note.

My teacher left me after three years! Why did I think I had a lifelong friend? She was young, attractive, her kids all moving on. She told me she was using an online dating service. She’d had a few, “coffee only” dates, and said, “A complete waste of time.”

Then it happened, at her dance class, she fell in love with an older man. He had been married twice before, he had two children older than her own and two in primary school. I said, “What on earth  are you doing?” But she was “‘in love,”’ she said. I quickly did the maths.

“When you are sixty he will be seventy-five!” I almost shouted at her.”‘I don’t care, I love him,” she said, and she waltzed out of my life, and my music died.

I  don’t play much at all  now, I have joined a writers group.