Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Gift of Music

“I sail my memories of home….”

The words of Judy Collins’ old song run through my mind whenever I’m in the throes of this family history addiction, like Sherlock Holmes and his 7% solution.

I had no intention of participating in the Carnival of Genealogy this month, but I think it was the picture that kept calling to me, the picture of the lovely lady at the piano.

At one time, I aspired to be a lovely lady at the piano. I started lessons very young (see picture), and continued into high school. I don’t remember it being my idea. I think it was my mother’s idea, as she had both my sister and me in lessons. Lessons were expensive enough, so she didn't invest much in the instrument, a worn, old clunker that no amount of tuning would save. For years, I studied with “Professor Michaelides”, a wonderful, OLD man from Cyprus, who had settled with his wife in Norfolk and offered piano lessons. He was very patient with me, and thanks to his training, I even won second place in a piano contest in high school. I can still hear his gravely voice with the mysterious accent telling stories of accompanying singers in Europe….one lady even rehearsed bare from neck to waist, so as not to constrict her breathing. Fascinating stories! That same voice is in my head, saying “Practice, Mary Lou! Practice!” whenever I start something new, or glance at the piano in my living room that sits mostly idle now.

Eventually, I broke his heart when the excitement of high school won out over the practice sessions, and I quit taking lessons. After I had married and started teaching, I did stop by to see him once in his little house. He was so kind and happy to talk. Years later, when I saw his obituary in the paper, I went to my first Greek Orthodox funeral, and had a little cry.

My dad usually sought refuge in the farthest room in the house when I practiced, doors shut. Let’s just say he wasn’t encouraging. I don’t know whether he ever played. I never heard him. But I did find a piece or two of sheet music in his papers after he died, so maybe he did. But he always….ALWAYS…..had classical music playing as he graded papers and planned his lessons. He had a vast collection of vinyl records, and later 8 track tapes and cassettes, mostly classical, but Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte (for my mother) and other crooners and artists from the 40’s and 50’s. That’s where it ended. When I rhapsodized over the Beatles, he just shook his head and rolled his eyes.

This was his gift to me, a love of all kinds of music. We have it going all the time in our house. I love to listen….and sail my memories…..



  1. I always loved the late afternoon hours when both of my daughters were home; it was when they practiced (one on the piano and the other on the harp). This post reminded me of those days. Your father didn't know what he was missing!

  2. Isn't it funny how memories can creep up on you and remind you about the small, wonderful moments of life? It is one of the gifts this hobby brings, I think!

  3. I'm really glad you decided to share your story with us in the COG, Mary. It's a great story! I don't know how the excitement of high school and the Beatles won out over piano lessons and your Dad's classics though. Oh wait, yes I do. They would have won out for me too!!!

  4. Ah, but the older, wiser me....oh, wait, I am only older, not so much wiser! ;-)

  5. I, too, had no intention of participating in this COG. However, like the sirens called to Ulysses, this poster called to me. Oh well, going with the flow is sometimes best. Thanks for sharing your piano lessons remembrances. I enjoyed it!

    Caroline Pointer
    Family Stories

  6. Now you are the lovely lady sitting at the family history table. Enjoyed the posting, and keep sailing with your memories.

  7. Thanks for reading, Caroline...I think footnoteMaven does the photos. Doesn't she do a beautiful job?

  8. Wonderful story. Your memories of your music teacher brought back some fond memories of my fourth grade teacher who also taught music. I too had a little cry when she passed away. Thank you for sharing.