Wow! It’s been a fun week here on the Jacke Blog, as we’ve counted down the most popular posts of my first year of blogging. And of course, we’ve also forced ourselves to recognize the least popular. (I’m still getting over the pen reviews! I had forgotten about those! I’m surprised WordPress didn’t revoke my blogging privileges.)
Back to the winners! Number three!
People, this one has a special resonance for me for many reasons. First, I’ve been incredibly moved by the many comments of people who have said how affected they were. I think there’s something indelible about the experience of teaching and learning music that most people file away somewhere. There are powerful emotions beneath the surface, sitting untapped. And then along comes a song, or a face – or in this case a story – that stirs them up.
There’s something else at work here: these are childhood emotions. But when you recall them as an adult, you see them through an adult’s eyes and understanding. I was one of Ms. Steiner’s pupils, a ward in her care. But now I see her as sort of a comrade-in-arms: one of the many people trying to pass along wisdom to today’s young people. Except she was completely crazy. The kids had broken her.
And so I also have an adult’s camaraderie – a survivor’s mentality – that I share with the others who had her as a teacher (or who had teachers like her). Many of these people have reached out to me. It has been astonishing how widely this little post has traveled.
And of course, this one also had the amazing followup post, in which an old friend of mine sent me a photo of a painting that her father, a French artist, had painted. A painting of the teacher sitting behind his daughter at the piano, which he was inspired to paint after watching one of their lessons. A painting, as I noted the first time around, which contained for me every memory of those days on that dark, cavernous stage, doing my best to learn an instrument that I could only play in my imagination.
I clown around a lot here on the Jacke Blog. And the story itself is rife with humor – I can’t read it without laughing, which is probably not the sort of thing I should admit, but there you go. I do. Ms. Steiner and I were quite a pair. It all cracks me up, every time I run through it.
But I’m serious about how grateful I am for the many comments you’ve sent me. This has been one of the highlights of my blogging year, and it’s made all the efforts of writing and posting and taking care of the mechanics seem more than worthwhile. Thank you, everyone.
So…ladies and gentlemen…
Top Post #3 of the First Annual Jacke Wilson Blogiversary Week Celebration
Every kid in town was afraid of the music teacher.
The grownups didn’t understand this. Miss Steiner had been teaching forever – she had taught the grandparents of some of my classmates – and when she had been young she had apparently been kind and patient and not yet disillusioned. To us, though, she was impossibly old.
And worse than being old, she had gotten mean.
At least it seemed mean at the time. Now I think it was probably a vast internal cauldron of frustration, simmering for years, now boiling over. Decades of teaching music to elementary school children had taught her one thing: children are terrible at music no matter what you do. And the corollary statement: if you are someone who loves music, then observing this phenomenon up close, day after day, year after year, will destroy you.
By the time our generation came along, Miss Steiner was desperate to save Music from the butchering hands of grade school kids with no talent. She would accompany soloists at recitals, pounding the keys of her piano in an attempt to drown out some poor clarinetist murdering a rendition of “I Love You Truly.” She played with desperation, as loud as she could, sweating and clenching her teeth and gasping for breath at the end of each song. It was as if she had no choice – as if Music itself had demanded it of her. Continue Reading…
And the Followup Post:
Image Credit (painting): Gui Lessin