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A short story by JENNA ORKIN of


The story below is based on the piano teacher I had in high school. Ten years later, while teaching on a fellowship at Juilliard I spoke of her to Dorothy Delay, the legendary violin teacher. Miss Delay said, 'I'd like to meet your teacher.'

The day I took 'Miss Laudon' to Miss Delay's studio, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg was having a lesson. Normally she didn't like outsiders sitting in on her lessons (who would?) but for some reason, that day she made an exception.

Miss Laudon was wowed, rising from her seat after each piece and exclaiming, 'But this is simply wonderful!' I was embarrassed; I couldn't tell if Miss Delay regretted having allowed us into the inner sanctum of her studio or if she was grateful for the appreciation. Nadja was her usual blase, modest self.


In the city, a man and a woman ran a music school. The man handled the school's business affairs and the woman gave piano lessons. The woman, Miss Laudon, taught Art and Truth in her lessons and the man, Mr Eschenbach, gave her the most promising students.

The school was on the edge of a run-down neighborhood. One afternoon just after his fourteenth birthday, Michael Krasner passed it on his way home from the center where he earned community service credit for high school.

'Guit r Piano Ac ordi n Lan uages 10 cents,' read the sign in pink neon lights with letters missing. A repeated 'C' sounded through the window as an eight-year-old boy practised his scales without ever reaching the top. But from an inner room came other music; harmonies that were sad but that aroused in Michael a fierce desire.

He'd taken piano lessons for four years from a woman who came to the house on Thursday after her day job at a bank. She had fingernails of a red that reminded him of a toucan and she assigned him pieces -- a Clementi Sonatina, a movement by Kuhnau, -- that inspired no particular emotion. When Michael stopped taking lessons, she didn't seem to care.

But hearing the music now that sounded like muffled crying behind the wall, he wanted to play it the way he wanted to pitch for his school team, the Falcons. Who was playing like that? She (Michael imagined the student to be a pale, ethereal girl), must be some sort of prodigy! Michael was a shy boy but he opened the door of the school and climbed the rickety stairs to the office.

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Copyright © 1 September 2005 Jenna Orkin, New York City, USA


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