Pianos fill the room: new pianos so shiny that they reflect faces bent over keys, older pianos with beautiful wood and carved details, and even a grand piano in the far corner. When they are waiting for their music lessons, my kids can't resist pulling up to a piano and playing for a bit. Piano Teacher, a beautiful woman with a Russian accent, always smiles when she comes out of the practice room and hears Shaggy Hair Boy improvising, just making up stuff as he goes.
"I don't know what makes me more jealous," she'll say, "his gorgeous hair or the way he can improvise."
Trained as a classical musician, long ago in Cold War Country, Piano Teacher says she never learned to improvise. When she sits down at the piano, she has to have sheet music, a specific song to play. She's always marveling at how my kids will just sit down at a piano and make up stuff or play bits of old songs they know or just fool around with music.
I love it that she thinks my kids are wonderful: it's a great quality for a teacher to have. When my shy youngest son With-a-Why first began lessons with her, I said to her anxiously, "Does he talk to you?" And she said, "Oh, you're lucky that he's shy! Shy kids are so great!"
The other day, she and I were sitting at table for a minute with our calendars, figuring out when we could schedule some summer lessons, and the two boys were, of course, fooling around on the pianos. With-a-Why started a piece I've heard him play before — it's called Solfeggietto or something like that. I'm so used to hearing piano music in my house that I wasn't really listening. But Piano Teacher looked over at him and then at me. "He's playing Bach, " she said, laughing. "He plays Bach for fun?"
She turned back to the calendar we were looking at. "I just love your kids," she said.
A fine quality for a teacher to have.
Shaggy Hair Boy at the piano studio.