“no, just piano.” A friend of my mother had a rickety old upright piano with a little round piano stool. This old piano was soon in our home and my lessons began. For the next two years, I made weekly trips to my teacher’s home where I alternately sculpted something from clay, made finger-paintings, and played the piano some. My progress, so my parents thought, was good, as I soon could play the very songs that I was hearing my teacher play for me at my lessons. Usually, the “piano part” of my weekly lesson was my teacher saying, “I have a new piece for you, Linda… It goes like this.” I would listen closely and watch her hands. Then I was able easily to play the new piece just as she had done.
Immediately my mother bought a church hymnal for me so that I could begin to play some of her favorites. But this was not to be; despite the fact that I could play the pieces that my teacher played for me, I simply could not play the hymns from the hymn book. My cover was blown! Soon, another friend of my mother discovered that I could not read the music at all; I had been copying my teacher... “playing by ear!” As my mother did not read music, and indeed had no idea of what was involved, she had been completely unaware of my lack of instruction in this area.
So, after two years, when I was seven, my mother found a competent, kind (yet strict!), and patient teacher who set out to teach me note reading and theory, and I was given no choice in the matter. This teacher insisted that I learn to read notes. She taught me music theory, and she taught me piano technique. This was a completely different approach to piano lessons for me. It was more difficult, as it required some actual work on my part. It often was not fun for me, and I’m pretty sure it was no picnic for my dedicated teacher, as well. She has always been a role model for me as a teacher.
This dear lady continued to be my teacher through my second year of high school; it was then that she realized that she had taken me as far as she could. At that time, I began to study under noted composer/arranger George Anson at Texas Wesleyan University.
Predictably, Wesleyan was my choice for college, where I continued my study under Mr. Anson. While a student there, I was the rehearsal accompanist for Wesleyan Singers, numerous TWU musical productions, and countless other university musical activities. For several years, I was the accompanist for the All-City Choral Clinics under the direction of Dr. David Foltz of the University of Kansas.
Even as education and experience honed my musicality and technical skills with classical material, I was developing my improvisational proficiencies in dance bands and other private performance venues. Fortunately, my early experience with ear training has served me well, as I continue to improvise and to play by ear when appropriate. I encourage my students to develop such skills, but I also give note reading a high priority.
Over the years, I have continued my activity in academic music, by providing piano accompaniment for the music departments in several area Independent School Districts including Hurst-Euless-Bedford, Southlake, Arlington, Irving, Keller, Burleson, and Azle. I am a frequent accompanist for Solo and Ensemble and UIL competitions. I recently performed before the conventions of The American Choral Directors’ Association and the Texas Music Educators’ Association.
I enjoy musical diversity, and equally enjoy performing Bach and Beethoven as well as Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. As a performer, perhaps the greatest compliment that I have received is that my greatest strength is my “musicality.” Indeed, this is very thing for which I have worked my entire life: that my music should be much more than just notes and rhythm; my music should convey an artistic style and vitality.
Thus was the preparation for my 'life's work.' And in my work as a piano teacher – now for well over four decades - I try hard to instill in my students the same disciplines and competencies that have served me so well. I sometimes tell students that my goal is to get them to the place where they do not need me – where they have developed the necessary skills to “figure out” music correctly for themselves. When they have reached this point, there are two things which I would like for them to remember about me. First, that I did my best to teach them to play piano well, and second, that I was always kind in so doing.
My parents began my preparation for my ‘life’s work’ when at the age of five, they overheard me actually playing childhood tunes on a toy harmonica. They thought that surely, if I could manage to play songs like “Oh, Susannah” and “My Darling, Clementine” on a toy, then I must have at least some musical ability! Piano lessons, they decided, would be just the thing for me, and soon they located a teacher near our home. This person was primarily an art teacher who also called herself a piano teacher. She insisted that I take both piano and art lessons, but my parents said,