<< -- 3 -- Jenna Orkin TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON
'I'm so happy to meet you,' she said and it seemed to be true. Her eyes, lively blue, looked into his. Her hair was soft and white. 'What's your name?'
'Michael ... Krasner.'
'It's a pleasure to meet you, Michael. Come in, please.' She led him down the hall past the practise cubicles, each empty but for a lopsided piano with brown or missing teeth. When they reached her studio, Miss Laudon gestured towards the piano, the school's one grand, and shut the door.
'You've studied before?'
'Well, up until April. I had about four years but -- '
'It doesn't matter. What would you like to play?'
Michael named the piece he had played at the eighth grade spring recital. 'Fantasy in D Minor by Mozart.'
Miss Laudon nodded. 'Please. Begin.'
She sat up straight. As Michael played the opening, she listened like a doctor to a heartbeat. The Fantasy wasn't Michael's favorite piece, -- it wasn't as exciting as Anitra's Tanz -- but he was a diligent student and played as his teacher had instructed him.
'Yes, I see,' said Miss Laudon, stopping him after eight bars. 'Thank you.'
She came over to the piano.
'Please start again.' Michael lifted his hand.
'Ssh...!' said Miss Laudon as he was about to play the first note. 'A shadow of sound ... far away ...' While Michael played, she described the emerging scene.
'And now ... the theme ... pleading.' She sang along with the piano, her voice heavy with pathos. 'Da da dee da da.' On the high D, Miss Laudon's voice croaked. Michael shook with suppressed laughter. But his hands shook too so he stopped laughing.
As he played the successive sections Miss Laudon frowned, waltzed or marched according to their mood. Michael was embarrassed as though she was dancing naked. He wanted the lesson to be over so he could go home and sit at the kitchen table with his mother and tell her about this crazy woman.
'So!' exclaimed Miss Laudon at the end of the lesson. 'You're a lovely boy. I mean that sincerely.' She seemed to be pleading with him to believe her.
Michael nodded. He did believe she meant it. The thought that he was a boy whom people might describe as 'lovely' calmed him, making him feel strong and gentle.
'And musical,' Miss Laudon went on with encouraging emphasis.
'So now! Would you like to study with me?" she asked, looking at him with the eagerness of a child. He could not betray her trust any more than he could lie to his mother about something important.
'Sure, I guess,' he said. 'I'll have to ask my Mom but she didn't want me to stop taking lessons anyway, so ...'
Michael's mother agreed to the piano lessons even though the price was many times that advertised by the neon sign.
The following week Miss Laudon gave Michael two pieces, a movement by Haydn that was too slow for Michael's taste and a Rhapsody by Brahms he couldn't wait to play. He worked hard on the Brahms and looked forward to showing Miss Laudon what he'd accomplished. The Haydn was a duty but he learned the section Miss Laudon had assigned. Then he went back and played his favorite part of the Brahms over and over the way he ate salted peanuts.
Miss Laudon praised the Brahms and sang as he played, shaping the phrases. Michael saw that what he had brought in was a piece of clay which had still to be formed.
Then he played the Haydn.
'Oh no, darling, I'm sorry,' Miss Laudon said when he finished. 'You've read the notes ... But you mustn't play without ... thinking about each note.' There were tears in her eyes as she mourned the piece he had just injured. 'You're such a thoughtful boy. I can see that, even though I haven't known you long. You think before you act. You try not to hurt people. Music is like a person too. When you care about someone you don't just learn their name. You learn all about them.'
Then she made him play it again, singing with him in her wavering, croaking voice. This time he didn't feel like laughing. He felt lost so he listened. And following her voice, he began to understand the music as one might a foreign language.
Copyright © 1 September 2005
Jenna Orkin, New York City, USA