Now, who is Miss Orban, you ask?  She was Auntie M’s piano teacher, from second through seventh grade, on and off.  And she deserves a blog named after her since she persevered with this recalcitrant student through all of those years.

Miss Orban was a typical spinster of the 50’s.  She had spider plants in the porch where her victim (I thought) waited my turn at the upright in her living room, listening as she patiently guided the student before me  stumbling through the latest etude/sontatina/march.  She always wore a pressed dress, with a linen hankie stuffed up one sleeve which she used to clean her glasses.  Her hair was permed in a crest of tight curls which never wavered.  Her house smelled old, like I thought she was, although now at my own lofty age, I realize she was probably about the lofty age I am now. Humph.

She also had small dark eyes which peered at me from behind her glasses.  And an uncanny ability to know whether I had really practiced my scales that week, or the piece I was learning.  I chafed at her choice of pieces.  Mozart, Chopin, Bach and Beethovan.  More dead people I’d never heard of, like Scarlatti, Pachelbel and Vivaldi.  Each year at Christmas she gave me a small white bust of some composer.

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Once I had the temerity to ask her if I could learn a modern song, something snazzy, something I might actually know from the radio.  “One day,” was her answer.  I never asked again.

After the lesson at the piano, I had to do the tough stuff: work through a paper lesson on music theory at the card table she kept set up during lessons at the foot of her stairs.  I spent more time staring at the stained glass window that was on her landing than focusing on her lessons, but I had to finish it to get out of there.

Years pass, I play a Christmas carol here, “Fur Elise” there for Doc, finally stop playing all together.  When our house burned down, I lost my composer heads (yes, I’d dragged them with me through a marriage and six other moves until we married.)

And then Doc got me this keyboard recently, and I’ve been practicing again.  And you know what?  I remember those lessons in theory and know what the timing, signs and signature mean.  I have a few ‘recognizable’ songs I’m learning, but they tend to be show tunes.  And the majority of what I’m playing?

Bach, Mozart, Beethovan and Chopin.  I’m re-learning those very sonata’s and sonatina’s I loathed in my youth.  They sound familiar to me now, classical, enduring.  I’m happy when they sound like they should.  I’m thrilled I know how to read music.  I’m enjoying  playing for myself, and when I do, both dogs lie down and listen.  Either it hurts their ears or puts them to sleep, but they are quiet and leave me alone.  I’m practicing one of Doc’s favorite songs to surprise him with on Thanksgiving–can’t tell you what yet in case he peeks at this–but it’s from a Broadway show.  I’m fiddling with buttons that make my Bach sound like a harpsichord and my Pachelbel sound like a string ensemble.  I love it.  I love that I can do it.

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Paramedic son is having some surgery in a few weeks and will recup for a few days at our house postop so his wife can keep working.  He plays guitar, very well, but learned by ear and can’t read music.  He wants me to teach him to read music and to play my keyboard whilst he’s here.  I’ve ordered him a beginner’s book, the same one Miss Orban used to teach me, still in print.  I’ve also found a beginner’s version of “House of the Rising Sun,” which he’ll learn AFTER he learns an easy version of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” as I realize it’s perfect for finger warmup and learning.

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Thank you Miss Orban.  I only wish I’d known to thank you sooner.

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