Margaret was fifteen years old when she broke the news to her parents that she no longer wanted piano lessons. Her parents were confused, but respected Margaret’s decision. “But you spend so much time at the piano,” her mother questioned, “you seem to love it?” Margaret did love music, and she loved the calm centeredness and feeling of connection with herself that happened when she sat down with the instrument. What she didn’t love, she told her mother, was “dreadful piano lessons”.
Breaking the news to her parents was the easy part. Next was telling her piano instructor; a rather intimidating, retired music teacher who had been the neighborhood pianist for forty years. Mrs. Regid was a great admirer of discipline, accuracy, and “proper” playing. Mrs. Regid prided herself in self-discipline and saw herself as a role model for cultivating that same self discipline in young people. Sitting next to the student, pencil keeping tempo against the wooden piano case, there was a sense of heaviness that entered the room with her. Students were not permitted into Mrs. Regid’s home, they were limited to a small muck-room which had been equipped with a spinet piano for beginner students of all ages. Only select, advanced students were invited into Mrs. Regid’s livingroom where they could play her Baldwin “baby” grand. For Mrs. Regid, playing the piano was something that brought feelings of dignity, self-respect, and glory to the “old masters” of the instrument.
Margaret suffered through her final lesson with Mrs. Regid. Repeating in her mind just how she was going to break the news, she found it nearly impossible to follow the beating pencil and made many errors in her reading. Finally the lesson came to an end and Mrs. Regid began writing a note on Margaret’s lesson book “needs more work!” Margaret inhaled deeply, moved nervously on the hard piano bench. She could feel the hard sit bones grind agains the harsh walnut seat. Margaret looked straight ahead at the note written on her lesson book. She heard herself say, “I have decided that I no longer want to play the piano.” Mrs. Regid looked at her with direct eyes and after a moment of silence she forced “you don’t love music” through tightened lips. Margaret bowed her head and waited for the moment to pass. Margaret then went home and began playing the piano.