Sunday, February 15, 2015

Music From My Mother


I was sitting in the living room of Melinda’s house recently listening to Tara play on their beautiful grand piano.  I started to think about how grateful I was that we had such beautiful music in our family.  Thomas, Will, Tara, Megan and Luke all have taken piano lessons and several have been in band playing various instruments.  In Clint’s family Coby and Andy play the piano, with Katie and Savanna still taking lessons.  Coby, Andy and Savanna are singers and have performed with Jive, a high school specialty music group.  In Rachael’s family all the kids can play the piano with Samantha playing the flute very well.  Tiffany’s family are taking piano lesson right now and Analee’s daughter is just beginning.

Where did this all come from?  Let me tell you the story.

When I was quite young we had an old piano in the house.  I remember Van playing lots of popular music on it.  I don’t remember who he took lessons from.  But by the time I was about 8, Leon, Lynn and I began taking piano lessons from Mary Abrams in West Point.  She was very patient with us and I looked forward to going to her small house up a long lane in the west most part of West Point.  She was a widow lady and I think her living came from the lessons.  Most kids in the area took lessons from her.

Lynn and Leon stopped lessons some time when they were in the early teens, but I kept taking for quite a while.  We would have recitals at the church each year and half of the ward turned out to hear our memorized pieces.

As I went to Jr. High I began taking lessons with a man in Ogden named Wayne Devereaux.  He was a wonderful musician and brought me along in my abilities. The lessons were given at the old Ogden Tabernacle. It was a big deal to drive from West Point to Ogden and I know my parents sacrificed to allow me to study with him.  He assigned much more difficult exercises and introduced me into concertos and much more difficult music.  But alas, after a couple of years I got lazy in my practicing and didn’t progress as I should.  Finally, I just stopped going.  

My mother especially encouraged me to play the piano.  I’m sure much hard earned money went to see that we had the opportunity in music.  I didn’t appreciate that at the time and wasted the opportunity that was given me.  

Mom and Dad tried to help the boys as they got to the end of their high school years by giving them a car.  It certainly wasn’t new but they took great pride in them.  I didn’t get a car.  My parents decided to take that money and give me a piano.  Little did they know at the time the great blessing and joy that would bring to me in the years ahead.  Many times my mother commented that it was only a few years and the cars they bought the boys were sold and gone.  But the piano they invested in for me has not yet stopped yielding me and my family much musical joy.

I learned to love music and loved not only playing classical pieces but many popular song and pieces.  When we lived in Chicago I gave a few piano lessons to the children of some friends, the Nelsons.  When we moved to Buhl, I continued giving a few lessons.  That’s when I would sometimes sit at the piano and teach my little Melinda a few notes and songs.

After we moved to Twin Falls and the children grew old enough to play, we started what seemed like a never-ending string of piano lessons, oboe lessons, trumpet lessons and drum lessons.  One of the first teachers was Jane Lebowitz.  She was an elderly lady who smoked like a trooper.  But she really was great in teaching basic beginning piano.  Later I drove the kids to Filer to take lessons from Mrs. Garrish.  She was great as well.  All the kids would go in a pile and have to wait while the others took their lessons.  We would pass the time reading and sometimes take walks around their country home.  In the spring we would take our paper bags and gather asparagus while we waited.  
As the kids got older we heard of another teacher right in Twin Falls.  Her name was Teala Balini Percin.  She and her mother were very accomplished pianists and had a great reputation.  So off we went to her house.  She also was particular about the skills and music.  She brought the kids to a much higher level of performance.

It was while we were studying with her that we started participating in not only piano recitals but in music festivals.  Festivals were where you played privately before some judges and they critiqued your skills and performance.  The goal was to get a “Superior”.   After so many “Superior” performances you were given a gold cup. That was the goal of each of the children to achieve that accomplishment.  They all did quite well.
I think Melinda really loved music and because of her piano, was chosen to participate in Madrigals.  At the time, this high school singing group was very popular and they really had some fun opportunities to perform in the community.  Melinda played the piano.  Her musical abilities grew so much with this experience.

Unfortunately, the first child to want to drop out of piano was Blake.  He really struggled to hear the notes or feel the rhythm.  Huge mistake!!!  I let him quit. He wanted to play drums so we bought drums and he had drum lessons.  It wasn’t long before Rachael and Clint were too involved with other activities, mostly sports, and they wanted to quit.  Big mistake!!  I let them quit.  I can’t really remember why I let that happen, maybe because with six children it involved a lot of extra running around.  I don’t really know.  But I really missed the boat with that.  Tiffany and Analee were still taking but soon Tiffany stopped practicing and soon quit going to lessons.  
I started to wise up with Analee.  Even when she was in high school and really involved in sports, I made her continue with lessons.  I told her that I didn’t care if she practiced but I wanted her to continue lessons.  I had a vision I guess, that warned me that she would need this skill in the future and would bless the wards she would be in because she could play the piano.

When I met Gordon, one of the talents that I really appreciated with him was his singing voice.  He sung in concert choir at BYU and had been chosen for a special quartet in his mission.  They called themselves the Mormon Sons.  He had played the trumpet in high school and even had his own dance band.  He played the guitar and sang the ballads that his dad had loved and played.  He has always enjoyed the participation of our family as we have sung together.  Our favorite ballad is Old Folks, Young Folks!  It always brings a smile as we sing about the Bible Stories.

I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I wanted the children all to be great pianists.  I took them to concerts and tried to have good music in our home.  But in the end, most of them were average or a little above in their abilities.  A lot of that was because I wasn’t very strict in making them practice as they should.  But some of it was their choices and abilities.

HOWEVER, I have realized that all that time and money and effort was not lost.  Each family has a love for music and appreciate the abilities of others.  Some like Clint, have branched out and developed their singing talent.  Blake, Clint and Analee have picked up the guitar and have a good time with that instrument.  Rachael and Melinda and Analee have participated in small singing groups in their wards.  Tiffany bought a piano and began teaching a few students and now helps with her children.  Analee did the same.

In each home there is music.  Tara Sant is amazing.  She is writing her own music and it is beautiful.  She has a touch on the piano that is a real gift. Tom and Will are great on the piano as well.   Samantha Wight has a gift with the flute.  Savanna not only clogs but has seen a real opportunity as a performer in Jive. Coby and Andy play the piano well and also are such good singers. 

So Mom and Dad Blake, I thank you!  After all these years I really appreciate what you have given my family.  It is a legacy of joy for us all.

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