Friday, January 21, 2011

Reggie's Greatest Regret In Life

. . . is that he cannot play the piano.  And it is not for lack of trying, either.

Reggie grew up in a house where the children were expected to become proficient in playing a musical instrument, among other basic skills of the well-rounded life.  When Reggie was a little boy, no more than six or seven years old, his mother, MD, asked him what instrument he would like to learn to play.  He wasn't given the option of whether he wanted to learn to play an instrument, but rather which one.  Fortunately, Reggie was more than agreeable to the prospect, despite having listened for years to his older siblings torture their way through practicing on various instruments for which they had little aptitude.  Aside from enjoying singing and playing records, the Darlings weren't exactly what Reggie would describe as a musically gifted family.

A young Reggie at the piano with his teacher, Mrs. Lee

Rather than follow in the footsteps of his older brother Frecky and take lessons on the French horn (a choice that to this day Reggie finds to be a peculiar one for his brother), Reggie asked to be given piano lessons.  He was attracted to the piano for several reasons: he liked the way it sounded, one could sing along to it when playing tunes upon it, and one wasn't expected to cart it about from place to place, unlike more portable but often cumbersome options, such as the cello or bassoon.

Performing classical music in concert halls
wasn't what attracted Reggie to the piano

The prospect of learning to play Beethoven's sonatas and other serious music and then performing them one day in concert halls was not the reason Reggie wanted to play the piano.  No, he was far more interested in learning to accompany himself and others while singing show tunes, popular songs, and Christmas carols in the comfort of fashionable drawing rooms.  For Reggie is a sociable chap, and has been one since the get-go, and he liked the idea of being the lucky fellow sitting at the piano at the parties he imagined himself attending, at the center of all the fun.

Everyone enjoys singing show tunes around the piano!

Yes, even at the age of seven Reggie was already a show tune lovin' laddie, which some may interpret as manifesting the propensity to be "that way," but which Reggie takes exception to since many of the composers of same were well-known for their prowess with the opposite sex—but that's a topic for another day, I suppose . . . .  On a less flibbertigibbety note, Reggie also enjoyed then (and still does) a good hymn sing, at least from the 1940 edition of the Episcopal Hymnal that was then still found in the pews at the church we attended on Sunday mornings.

This is how I saw myself
Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

In short, Reggie was interested in learning to play the piano because he thought it would be his ticket to becoming the life of the party.

But it didn't work out that way.

My parents signed me up for piano lessons with a neighbor, named Mrs. Lee, who lived only two doors from our house and who had three pianos in her large living room where she gave lessons in the afternoon, when her husband, an editor at the Washington Post, was at the office.  Mrs. Lee was a pleasant lady, and I liked her.  She started me with the exercises that one would expect and was encouraging of the progress I initially made under her tutelage.  I remember the pride I felt when I performed for the first time at the annual recital she held for her students, the highlight of which was—at least for little Reggie—the sweet and salty praline cookies she served at such gatherings.  I remember those cookies vividly to this day.

Doesn't Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge?

The problem was, after an initial spurt of facility at the piano, my progress slowed to a virtual standstill, and I barely advanced beyond rank beginner after several years of taking lessons.  Part of the problem, I admit, is that after the first flush of excitement wore off I became less than enthralled with practicing for more than half an hour at a time, and I was frustrated that I was forced to learn the likes of Bartok's compositions for children when what I really wanted to play was "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady.

I played this album to death as a child

It also didn't help that the piano we had at home was a rather pathetic upright one that MD had bought at a yard sale and painted cherry red (she had a thing for painting furniture with bright enamel colors at the time), and that was only rarely tuned, if ever.  MD refused to consider buying a better piano for me to practice on, given my level of skill at the time.  "Why should I buy you another piano when you can't even play the one we've got?" she would ask me when I would complain about the quality of the instrument I was expected to practice upon.

The dreaded, and for Reggie embarrassing, piano recital

But despite that, Mrs. Lee and I soldiered on for the next several years.  Every year at her annual recital concert I was still lumped with the beginners, and I would find myself—with some humiliation, I might add—towering over the little ones who surrounded me there.  By that point, MD had given up attending the recitals as she had—she informed me with a snort—other and better uses of her time.

My piano recital competition

One day, when I was twelve years old, I arrived at Mrs. Lee's house for my weekly lesson.  After several minutes she put her hand on mine as I was stumbling through the day's piece and said, "Stop."

I turned to her to see why.  She had an odd expression on her face.  She hesitated, as if building her courage, and said to me, "Reggie, you are a nice boy, and I like you, but I am afraid that I must tell you that you will never learn to play the piano.  Of all the students I have taught over the years, and there have been many, I have never come across one who has as little talent for it as you do."

"Really?" I asked.

"Yes, really.  There's simply no point in trying any more, because you will never learn to play the piano.  You have no aptitude for it, and no matter how much you practice you will never learn to play it.  I am sorry, but I can't teach you anymore.  I simply cannot, in good conscience, accept any more money from your parents.  Today is your last lesson.  We are done."

"But what will I tell my parents?" I asked her.

"I will telephone your mother now and let her know."

It was with mixed feelings that I left Mrs. Lee's house that late afternoon and walked back to my parents' house.  On one hand I was relieved that the burden I had endured for the last four years was now over, but on the other hand I was disappointed to learn—once and for all—that I had absolutely no talent for playing the piano and that I would never find myself the life of the party, tinkling ivories and singing show tunes to the delight of those gathered around me.

That's how I saw myself.  Erroneously, as it turns out . . .

When I got home MD was waiting for me.  "Thank God that's over," she said with a smirk, letting me off the hook.  She had the piano carted away the very next day.

Not for Reggie, as I learned . . .
Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

But it always rankled me that I had never learned to play the piano, and that I had been told that I never would, nor should I bother even trying to.  I still, deep down inside of me, wanted to be that happy fellow sitting at the piano at the smart parties I imagined attending, singing and laughing away.

Half a decade later I got another chance . . .

During my final year at Saint Grottlesex I applied for and was the fortunate recipient of a scholarship to attend school in England for a year, with all of my expenses paid for.  It was an exchange program between English and American boarding and secondary schools under the auspices of the English Speaking Union, an organization devoted to fostering good will among (or as they would say "amongst") the English speaking nations.  I was not given a choice as to which school I would attend under the program, except to request one that was strong in music and where the students were largely drawn from within Great Britain, as opposed to from a broader, more international base.

The school that the E.S.U. selected for me was Sherborne School, a quintissentially English, all-boys public boarding school located in a bucolic market town of the same name in Dorset, a several-hour train ride west of London.  Sherborne (pronounced "Shuh-bn") was founded in 1550 by Edward VI (the short-lived son of Henry VIII) on the site of a deconsecrated monastery.  It was and remains a beautiful school with handsome buildings and grounds, and it was used as the location for the 1969 movie of Goodbye Mr. Chips starring Peter O'Toole.

Sherborne School, Dorset, England
Image courtesy of same

When I arrived at Sherborne I was given the opportunity to take music lessons on an instrument of my choice.  I decided that I would—once again—attempt to take up the piano and show "them" that I really could learn to play the instrument that Mrs. Lee said I would never be able to master.

I was given as a teacher an elderly, archtypal English maiden-lady named Miss Whipple, who looked like a character right out of an "English Cosies" murder mystery of the type filled with village eccentrics, vicars on bicycles, and such.  Miss Whipple, who was in her early seventies at the time, lived in a cottage not far from the school with her equally elderly spinster sister.  Her sensible clothes were from another long-gone era, and she wore stout, sturdy shoes.  I recall that she wore a pince-nez, too.

Miss Whipple looked remarkably like
the writer Agatha Christie

Photograph courtesy of

I told Miss Whipple my story of how I had taken piano lessons as a boy, and that I regretted that I had been considered incapable of ever learning to play one.  She responded encouragingly that she had had great success with her pupils, even ones with only modest innate talent, and that she was sure she would have success with me, too, so long as I promised to apply myself.  With that agreed to, we set off.

Could this still be in my future, I wondered?
Image courtesy of

In the first several weeks under Miss Whipple's tutelage I made leaps and bounds of progress, and she was delighted with me and how quickly I proceeded.  I practiced diligently, hours every day, and I was determined to make a success of learning to play the piano.

But after several months had passed I was no longer making any progress, and—no matter how much I practiced—I had once again become stuck at the very same place I had been when Mrs. Lee put her hand on mine.  Whereas Miss Whipple had initially been pleased to see me and was quite enthusiastic about my progress, over time she became increasingly restless and fidgety during our lessons, which were no longer the pleasant fun they first had been.  Despite my best efforts, she started to become impatient with me and at times quite short with me, clearly irritated by my incompetence.  "No!" she would cry as I fumbled my way through a piece, "That's not how it is done!"  She would then demonstrate once again, with mounting irritation, how I should play the section of music at hand and what technique I should use.

Sadly, no jolly shout-outs for Reggie with a happy gang
of fellows gathering 'round him at the piano

But I didn't make any more progress, and it became increasingly clear to me, as it certainly had to Miss Whipple by this time, that what Mrs. Lee had said to me all those years ago was, in fact, true—that I had absolutely no aptitude for playing the piano, and my attempting to learn to play one was futile and an utter waste of my (and others') time.

After several more painful weeks had passed, by which point Miss Whipple had grown openly hostile to me and was now sitting through our lessons in angry, stony silence, I decided to throw in the towel and put both of us out of our misery.  Not surprisingly, Miss Whipple was more than pleased to let me go and agreed with alacrity that it was far better that I concentrate my efforts on activities where I had at least some chance for success.  So, instead, I signed on for the school's choral society where I was able to happily sing away without unduly embarrassing myself or visibly annoying the conductor . . . or Miss Whipple.

And that, Dear Reader, is why Reggie cannot—nor will he ever be able to—play the piano.

All black and white photographs, unless noted, are courtesy of LIFE Images.  Reggie had rather a lot of fun finding vintage photographs to illustrate his story.  He makes no claims to actually appearing in any of them.


  1. Reggie, you and I have very similar early experiences with the piano. I have not had a second attempt, however. Not yet.

  2. Your topic immediately caught my attention today. I can remember my mother lamenting the fact that she didn't take piano lessons with me.(back when i started taking them in 4th grade) I practiced faithfully (I think I remember 30 minutes a day) until I was allowed to get ready for a day of swimming at the local pool! I stayed with it for about 5 or 6 more years and my claim to fame was playing the Burt Bacharach Songbook at the piano in my college dorm! Not bad, but far from great! But over the years, my mother expressed regret that she didn't learn to play as the piano sat empty and out of tune at her house. She desparately wanted me to move it to my house, but it never happened. So this year, as we began to empty out my mom's house, my niece asked me if she could take the piano to her home in Virginia. I thought about it long and hard, and said yes. (My mother might not have liked it, but I knew she would give her children piano lessons as she had taken them when she was young) Well, it all came full circle this year, as my niece sent out her personalized Christmas cards with my great niece and nephew standing in front of my piano. I was so honored and more than that, my mom would've loved it!
    On a side note, I loved your review of your Pittsburgh visit! We live 20 minutes from there and truly enjoy much of what it offers. You will have to go to the top of Mount Washington next time! Spectacular views!! Thanks for your wonderful blog and the incredible photography. Sue Stewart

  3. Oh Reggie good try! Well no one can say you don't have stick-to, I so admire that.
    I had a similar experience. My Grandfather played the piano effortlessly and it was such good fun to sing around it when I was a little girl. My own piano lessons amounted to disappointment, I have no talent for it.

    Loved your post and the photographs too!

  4. Flibbertigibbety? This post could have been written about me, exactly. I, too, was forced to play the Bartok pieces, when all I really wanted to play was "On the Street Where You Live". Seven years of torture, I withstood, until my teacher threw in the towel. I am happy to say, however, I can read music and I do have a lovely appreciation for classical music.

  5. Oh my dearest Reg - you must have swooned over Bobby Short. If it makes you feel better, I had a natural aptitude for the piano, and quit because my teacher had bad breath. And I, unlike you, can't sing a note. At least you take your music with you whereever you go.

  6. This was such a wonderful story to read while sitting by the fire, sipping a glass of red (it's after 5pm) and relating to your musical woes. I too wanted to play the piano or the violin. Never happened.

    Somehow Reggie, I suspect your inability to master the piano has not detracted one bit from your ability to be the life of the party in the most charming way!

  7. As a teacher of the finer arts, I find it unacceptable the way you were treated by your teachers. Sarcasm, glaring, harsh words etc are the tactics of small minds not artists of a craft. That you were willing to stay in the game is a testament to your character. That others impugned your efforts say more about their lack of skill than it does yours. I'm appalled Reggie. SImply appalled.

    There is always a remedy for being 'stuck'. That your teachers did not help you find it is telling.

  8. Reggie,
    try this...get the book for kids.

  9. You obviously didn't have Amy Chua as your mother! For that fact your readers will be eternally grateful!!

  10. I decided I wanted to learn to play the piano as an adult and so, at the age of 34, began lessons with a remarkable teacher and musician. I desperately wanted to play Baroque music. For seven years Emilie and I worked my way through simple Bach, Telemann, Vivaldi, Handel, etc. I learned a great deal about Baroque music but was never really very good. Fortunately for me and for Emilie (who became a dear friend), I sustained an injury that left me with nerve damage in my right arm and had to give up the piano.

  11. It happened to me, too!!! And I LOVE music -- but that is one talent I don't have -- I can't sing nor can I play!!! And I don't think any amount o training will enable me to do either!

  12. Sweet believing little Reggie, seated at the piano with nothing but DESIRE in his heart, this is a tragic story and I hate it. Your teachers -- I agree with VoiceTalk -- you had reached the end of THEIR range, not yours.

    GAWD; my mother also hit a spell when she painted furniture in vivid enamel, especially RED. She called it Indian Red. Close my eyes and I see an antique [Indian] red secretary, a Hepplewhite desk chair, 2 chests of drawers, a Windsor chair...[opening my eyes now]

  13. As a professional piano teacher, I read through your pianistic memoir with mounting horror, until, finally, my hair burst into flames and my ears fell off. I'll pick up those pieces later, but first I want to share some insights I have garnered over three decades of teaching;

    1) Kindly take a look at "Talent is Overrated" by Geoff Colvin, clarifying that talent (whatever that is) is only a minor component of musical success, something any enlightened piano teacher already knows. 2) What were your teachers thinking? Any imaginative piano teacher includes musical examples of both Broadway musicals and jazz-inspired pieces at the center of the musical adventure. 3) Did I say adventure? Whether it is classical or popular music, if it's not fun then it's not serious. Or as Duke Ellington said, "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)."

    Unless we are pursuing what we truly love in this fleeting life, why bother, indeed? So, let the piano student take a front seat in selecting the music he or she truly loves: they will learn faster, more enthusiastically, and cultivate a sense of purpose and pride. All you needed, Reggie, was teacher with a touch of good humor and enough curiosity and respect to appreciate you for who you are, rather than their preconception of what every student 'ought' to be.

    Jonathan Baker

  14. Reggie,
    I must say that you were treated very badly by the would not be tolerated in this day and age...children's self esteem is so easily is NEVER to late to chase your dreams!

    I desperately wanted to be a pianist...but it was not to be as our piano had been carted away as the strings had crystallized... living so close to the ocean apparently the salt had something to do with it? I took up the flute...and I too regret not being able to play the piano today.

  15. The school was also used by Lindsay Anderson for "If..," yes? In any case, you pre-empt one's own autobiography, y.a., but more merrily than that account would have been. Delicious posting; the "My Fair Lady" reminiscence is extremely (extremistly?) familiar. Cute little naughtikins at the keyboard, by the way; pretty obviously a woodwind guy.

  16. this is so sad.
    but you must have enough talent to play songs with your pals drinking and singing around the piano.

    they won't notice your shortcomings.
    they are happy to be with you ,
    and besides they are probably drunk.

    i have piano stories as well.
    i was really good,i could play by ear if i wished.
    but my teacher completely turned me off of the piano.
    she was nasty.

  17. Reggie, When reading the first few paragraphs of your enchanting tale I was instantly reminded of my very own "Mrs Lee" Mrs Lee was an elderly woman employed by my mother to take charge of my younger sibling and I. Although not teaching me to play the piano, she told me when I was 6 or 7 that I would never be able to master the art of watercolour.

  18. Sounds like you have hit a very common note here with everyone.(sorry for that, I couldn't resist) in the comment section.
    However it is a sad story when such effort is made. Can you sing?
    Perhaps the guitar would have done it for you in the same way?
    I have a couple of darlings that now say why did you let me quit mum?
    My father is a jazz pianist and it certainly does happen at parties as illustrated....the great thing is at 86 he is off on two back to back jazz cruises this month, it has kept him young but he did have extraordinary talent from about 3.
    Anyway I did enjoy the post and all the aside ancedotes.

  19. Reggie --

    I hope someone pointed out along the way that Cole Porter (say) is much harder to play than the schoolboy versions of the greats.

    And Lisa is certainly right about the key point.

    (Also, perhaps it's not really you. Perhaps it's all the fault of your Protestant upbringing. If your teachers had been Penguins With Rulers, who knows how you might have turned out?)

  20. You might not be a great pianist Reggie, but you are a heck of a writer. Having had some similar pianistic experiences, that was one of the most entertaining I stories I have read from Greater Blogland. After we married, my dear late wife who was a classicly trained pianist with a Piano Performance degree from a prestigious school of music would smile at my attempts, giving me points for my determination and creativity, while grinding her teeth down to nubs due to my technique.
    Best -
    - Mike

  21. Dear Reggie, what a wonderful story! At least you enjoy music and you sing. No matter about the piano, you have plenty of other talents.

    How lovely you went to Sherborne - I see where some of your English taste comes from now. Have a fabulous weekend xx

  22. We certainly struggled didn't we ?! that red and black piano my Mother tucked away on the back porch was hideous- she always reminded me that my brother could have been a concert pianist- dangled that carrot and then flogged me with it.
    HOWEVER- we certainly sang well! don't you remember ? Not only My Fair Lady but
    Sound of Music, Oliver, and some of the Beatles! (MD loved our Mrs. Robinson)
    I always thought we would have done better
    if we were allowed to try and play some of what we loved to sing!
    Nowadays, I have bits of Blues, Jazz, and
    folk tumbling about my head... a neighbor owns the most fabulous electronic organ-don't think I am not tempted to try it! Cheers.

  23. Oh Reggie, at least you can sing....and you have another wonderful gift - you are such a witty storyteller. I laughed and laughed. Thanks for such a great post.

  24. "At least you take your music with you whereever you go."

    I love the arc of this observation by LPC. Bears repeating.

  25. As someone whose musical talents consist of being able to carry a tune (in a CD box...)I managed to escape the instrumental lessons. I always felt sorry for you and Izzy slaving away at your respective red pianos in freezing converted porches. Was it supposed to be morally superior to practice in a room where you needed gloves to play?

    As for singing show tunes - we all did. I have many fond memories of you, me, and Izzy singing along with LPs. I can still dredge up most of the words to My Fair Lady, and Oliver. Oh, dear. Now I have an earworm of Just you wait, Henry Higgins!


  26. Reggie, I feel your pain, being part of a family where everyone and
    anyone can sit down at the piano and play remarkably well, with varying
    degrees of skill. Never could pull it off, which is doubly frustrating when
    like you, I am one of those persons who can hear a song twice, get all
    the notes right and memorize the lyrics, verses included. I've often expressed this frustration to my mother, whose response is always the
    same: "You can draw, paint, sew, write and cook~what more do you want?"

  27. As long as you can play the radio, you are the life of our party.

  28. After reading some of the other comments, I suddenly feel a bit guilty for laughing so riotously while perusing this blog entry. I suppose these two music teachers could have tried harder, exhibited more patience, or been a bit less forthright when it came to Reggie's piano-learning disability, but that would have made the story much less amusing for me.

    Like some others here, I can certainly relate to young Reggie's experience. I too took lessons but after several years of trying my best, it became obvious to me that the piano was just not my thing. I knew it. My teacher knew it. My parents knew it. Upcoming recitals eventually became a nightmare. Thank God that darling, old Mrs. Livingston finally blurted out the truth one day. To my great surprise, my parents didn't seem the least bit disappointed to know my piano playing days were coming to an end. I'd always assumed they enjoyed my playing, and a desire to to please them was my only real motivation for sticking with it for so long, but it turned out my keyboard racket was, in fact, very unpleasant for anyone in earshot. So, in the end, the truth had set us all free!

    My Mrs. Livingston also looked a bit like Reggie's Mrs. Lee, although Mr. L's hair was always pulled back in a tight bun which was then wrapped in a braid. She sometimes appeared stern but, in retrospect, I think she may well have been the sweetest person I ever knew. I remember finding Mrs. Livingston's house fascinating and strange but pleasant too. Though it was large and beautifully furnished, everything inside was starting to fall apart - the upholstery was shot and the rugs were all threadbare, etc. Strangest of all, though, were the many framed paintings of a young (and very naked) woman that were scattered throughout her home. Evidently the late Mr. Livingston had been a painter, and his beautiful bride had been his favorite model. My prepubescent heart was so conflicted by the realization that the kind, grandmotherly lady who sat at my right side on that bench was the same buxom, nude, twenty-somthing woman who stared out from the oil painting above the piano. Sorry, I'm rambling now...I guess I just wanted to make the point that despite my lack of talent regarding that particular behemoth of a musical instument, those years of piano lessons were not a complete loss. My inability to properly tickle the ivories doesn't prevent me from looking back at those piano lessons with fondness and good humor, and I get the impression that Reggie might just feel the same way.

  29. Oh Reggie, Reggie that's almost my story of playing the piano. After six whole expensive years of tuition I passed Grade 2 but must add 'with merit' of which I was inordinately proud.

    I revisited the piano as an adult but stopped when my precocious son did a devastating imitation of me playing Fur Elise. He nailed it exactly: fluent in the easy parts and then stumbling comically when the bars got dense with black notes. As I kid I drove my family mad with the easy to play version of Younger Than Springtime.

  30. Oh, Reggie, I laughed out loud! My teacher, Sister Regina Marie, fired me from piano lessons - much to my mother's dismay. When I was 50 I, too, gave it another go. Another disaster! I ended up trading my piano for Ken Lay's telescope (acquired by my wasband at the Enron auction). Everyone is happy.

  31. Oh I hated that piano! My mother assured me that being able to play was the way to be invited to all the best parties! Was she crazy? Who ever played the piano at any (high school) party in the '60's? I was useless at it anyhow...I'm sure my teacher was thrilled when I quit.
    Naturally, my mother said I would be sorry and (sigh), I am. I, too, tried again in my 40's, having become addicted to watching Lucia play Moonlight Sonata at her musical evenings. I wanted to BE Lucia...I wanted her clothes and her car and Georgie too. No luck at all..I just can't seem to carry a tune and was happy to see the old piano trucked off to who knows where.

  32. Wonderful post!! You may not have mastered the piano but your creativity has found many other wonderful ways of expressing itself. My youngest is actually quite an accomplished pianist and wants to quit - she hates to practice. I've let her cut back on practicing hours and encouraged her teacher to give her a couple fun contemporary pieces (like Christmas songs) to hopefully keep her engaged. Her teacher says that most of her students lose interest at this age (6th grade) and then get back into it in a year or two - just have to keep her in there!

  33. Charming story, you've really tinkled my keys with this one. Side note: don't give up.

  34. I myself is also pressured to play the piano back when I was a child. But it turned out that I am good in playing the guitar instead.

  35. Dear Reggie,

    I’ve missed you! What a wonderful day to return to your blog. I laughed all the way through it!
    Like your brother, I tried the French horn. I pity the person who plays this instrument. Like you, I wanted a fun instrument, a bluesy, jazzy, extroverted instrument, but instead somehow I ended up playing the French horn where my biggest goal was not to be last chair. At the time the band teacher told me I had perfect lips for that instrument! Who knows what that was supposed to mean! The parts that instrument has usually involved holding a note and counting measures till finally you could switch to a different note. And then the idea of draining the spit out the mouthpiece onto the floor? And sticking your hand down the horn? Who’s ever heard of that?
    But piano! My experiences make me laugh today, but at the time I dreaded showing up at Mrs. Freiheit’s house. My worst memory is how while struggling through a piece she’d assigned, she hollered, “You are ruining what used to be my favorite piece!” I started to cry and she threw tissues at me and said “here baby, use these.” My sister who took lessons with me and I decided we wouldn’t tell our mother. Years later when we did, my mother was really angry though Mrs. Freiheit was already long dead. Too bad, it would have been fun to see what my mother may have said to this awful woman. I just wish I hadn’t cried and could have had a smart response.
    Your pictures are so fun, Reggie! You are wonderful.

  36. Such a funny post! I played piano for 12 years, but now when I sit down at one, the only song I can play start to finish is "Memory" from Cats. The shame!

  37. Dear Reggie, I found your blog through your comment on Edith Hope's blog. I loved your post, but like many of the commenters, I found it very sad. There must be so many children who were put off by very similar experiences.
    I believe music pupils need enthusiastic encouragement if they are to succeed. Learning the tunes of popular songs is just as good a way of finding your way around the notes as any, and friends and family will be far more likely to applaud a song they recognise.
    Best wishes, Victoria

  38. Reggie Dear: You are absolutely right. The French Horn? What was I thinking? As it turned out, the Bugle - no moving parts - was better suited to my abilities. Your Loving Brother, Frecky

  39. Very funny look back at what must have been not-so-funny at the time.

    I always wished I could sing. "Stand in the back and mouth the words" were my instructions in music class - back in the day, when we still had music classes.

  40. My father was a professional musician and a child prodigy. I have absolutely no musical talent. My musical career was much shorter than yours. About 15 seconds.
    I have however, been very successful at dating musicians. :)

  41. Reggie,darling,Need I say- you are in the best of company with these comments, I only add-I have my own regrets with years of lessons and the same as an adult-& still aspire-with no piano in sight. My childhood piano teacher Mrs W. died in the fall and there is a story I want to tell-suffice it to say-this is where I got all my "social graces", at the bench,-if lacking in the skills of making music. Gaye

  42. friend, The Zhush gushed on and on about you the other night. So, here I am!!

    Piano. Oh, my, the therapy I could use b/c of piano lessons. 12 years worth, twice a week. I really can't play today. I begged to quit. I sneaked away from lessons. Nothing worked. So, from age 6 to 18 I laborously took piano lessons with the talented Mrs. Bianchi.

    The take away....if a child really, really says they do not enjoy a certain lesson/sport/activity, do not continue to force it upon them.

    And, that's that!

    ~ Elizabeth

  43. Ha! as a long-term lurker and ex alumni of sherborne girls I now wonder how old you are and whether the choral society of which you speak was conducted by Patrick Shelley and Augusta Miller! Anyway. I'm sorry Mrs Whipple was such a horror.Go back and visit the abbey some day, it is still beautiful enough to move one to tears (and it smells the same too).

  44. Good Lord that was funny and particularly timely. I am in month number two of piano lessons for my five year old twin boys. At 44 I am learning along side the children and we are loving it. As a child I had a "Polo" sucking, German tyrant who hit my knuckles with a ruler when I hit the wrong key. I ran for the hills when he'd come to the house. I'm determined to keep piano a positive experience for my boys.

    I, too, tried to be musical once again at boarding school in England the year after graduating from "St Grotlesex". This time it was the cello. WHAT a disaster!

    This post brought back a flood of memories. Thanks so much!

  45. Anon 10:24: Thank you for your comment, it was most amusing. Were you, by any chance, also an ESU scholar when you went to boarding school in England?

  46. No, I went through the British American Educational Foundation... Run then by a very stern and proper Mrs Denise(?) van Pelt Bryan. My older brother, who also had gone through the BAEF, called her the "Dragon Lady" as he was prepping me for my interview. I came down from Middlesex my senior year to meet with her. The train was late, and I put my foot in a huge pile of dog mess rushing to get to the interview. She still placed me.... and she was actually a lovely woman. My year in England was an amazing experience.

    I had a great grandmother that lived in Grosse Pointe, it would seem, at the same time you did. She lived in NYC on Park Ave and then in the Manhattan House when it opened. She was married six times. Her fourth... or was it fifth?... lived in Grosse Pointe. His second or third? She moved there and I have pictures of the house which was substantial and on water. (Never been there, so I have no idea where it was.) His surname was Reynolds, and no she did not marry for money, as she had buckets from her own family. (Although, I don't think his family was all too pleased by the nuptuals.) My mother jokes that her grandmother had six husbands over the course of fifty-five years... and the same chauffeur for thirty-two. "She should have married Maurice".

    I'm thoroughly enjoying reading through your posts. Cheers!

  47. Oh! I remember this long and really great post I wrote......

    and it is nowhere!

    Unsafe at any speed on the internet......I will try to remember and post again!

    I have tremendous empathy!


  48. In my line of work I love working with sites like this cause I can tell your passionate about your family and these wonderful stories. Keep posting its nice to read this kind of stuff.


Please do comment! I welcome and encourage them, and enjoy the dialogue.

Related Posts with Thumbnails