Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Very Touching Story

This is a true and touching story of love and perseverance.
I am a former elementary school music teacher from DesMoines , Iowa .

I have always supplemented my income by teaching pianolessons – something I have
done for over 30 years.

During those years I found that children have many levels of musicalability, and
even though I have never had the pleasure of having aprodigy, I have taught some
very talented students.

However, I have also had my share of what I call ‘musically challenged’ pupils -
one such pupil being Robby..

Robby was 11 years old when his mother (a single mom) dropped him off for his
first piano lesson. I prefer that students (especially boys)begin at an earlier
age, which I explained to Robby. But Robby said thatit had always been his
mother’s  dream to hear him play the piano, so Itook him as a student.
Well, Robby began his piano lessons and from the beginning I thought itwas a
hopeless endeavor. As much as Robby tried, he lacked the sense oftone and basic
rhythm needed to excel.  But he dutifully reviewed hisscales and some elementary
piano pieces that I require all my students to learn. Over the months he tried
and tried while I listened andcringed and tried to encourage him.
At the end of each weekly lesson he would always say ‘My mom’s going to hear me
play someday’.  But to me,it seemed hopeless, he just did not have any
inborn ability.

I only knew his mother from a distance as she dropped Robby off orwaited in her
aged car to pick him up. She always waved and smiled, butnever dropped in.
Then one day Robby stopped coming for his lessons. I thought about calling him,
but assumed that because of his lack of ability he haddecided to pursue something else. I was also glad that he had stopped coming – he was a bad advertisement for my teaching!

Several weeks later I mailed a flyer recital to the students’ homes. To my
surprise, Robby (who had received a flyer) asked me if he could be in the
recital. I told him that the recital was for current pupils and that because he
had dropped out, he really did not qualify.

He told me that his mother had been sick and unable to take him to his piano
lessons, but that he had been practicing. ‘Please Miss Honor, I’ve just got
to play’ he insisted. I don’t know what led me to allow him to play in the recital
- perhaps it was his insistence or maybe something inside of mesaying that it
would be all right.

The night of the recital came and the high school  gymnasium was packed with
parents, relatives and friends. I put Robby last in the program,just before I
was to come up and thank all the students and play a
finishing piece. I thought that any damage he might do would come at the end of
the program and I could always salvage his poor performance through my ‘curtain

Well, the recital went off without a hitch, the students had been practicing and
it showed. Then Robby came up on the stage. His clotheswere wrinkled and his
hair looked as though he had run an egg beaterthrough it.  ’Why wasn’t he
dressed up like the other students?’  I thought. ‘Why didn’t his mother at least
make him comb his hair for this special night?’

Robby pulled out the piano bench, and I was surprisedwhen he announced that he
had chosen to play Mozart’s Concerto No.21 in C Major. I was not prepared for
what I heard next. His fingerswere light on the keys, they even danced nimbly on
the ivories. He wentfrom pianissimo to fortissimo, from allegro to virtuoso; his
suspended chords that Mozart demands were magnificent!

Never had I heard Mozart played so well by anyone his age.
After six and a half minutes he ended in a grand crescendo, and everyone was on
their feet in wild applause!  Overcome and in tears, I ran up on-stage and put my
arms around Robby in joy.  ’I have never heard you playlike that Robby, how did
you do it?

Through the microphone Robby explained: ‘Well, Miss Honor …. remember I told
you that my mom was sick? Well, she actually had cancer and passed away this
morning. Andwell …… she was born deaf, so tonight was the first time she
had ever heard me play, and I wanted to make it special.’

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house that evening. As the people from Social
Services led Robby from the stage to be placed in to foster care,I noticed that
even their eyes were red and puffy. I thought to myself then how much richer my
life had been for taking Robby as my pupil.

No,I have never had a prodigy, but that night I became a prodigy …….
of Robby.  He was the teacher and I was the pupil, for he had taught me
the meaning of perseverance and love and believing in yourself, and may be even
taking a chance on someone and you didn’t know why.

Robby was killed years later in the senseless bombing of the Alfred P.Murray
Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April, 1995.

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