Posted by: vmbhonde | मे 12, 2011

Robby- piano player


At the prodding of my friends I am  writing this story. My name is  Mildred  Honor and I am a former elementary school music  teacher from DesMoines , Iowa .
I have  always supplemented my income by teaching  piano  lessons –  something I have done for over 30  years.

During those years I found that  children have many levels of musical  ability,  and even  though I have never had the pleasure of having  a  prodigy, I  have taught some very talented  students.

However, I have also had my  share of what I call ‘musically challenged’  pupils – one such pupil being  Robby..

Robby was 11 years old when his  mother (a single mom) dropped him  off  for his  first piano lesson. I prefer that students  (especially boys)  begin at  an earlier age, which I explained to Robby. But  Robby said that  it had  always been his mother’s  dream to hear him  play the piano, so I  took him  as a student.

Well, Robby began his piano  lessons and from the beginning I thought  it  was a  hopeless endeavor. As much as Robby tried, he  lacked the sense of  tone and  basic rhythm needed to excel.  But he  dutifully reviewed his  scales and  some elementary piano pieces that I require all  my students to learn.  Over the months he  tried and tried while I listened and  cringed  and tried to encourage him.

 At the end  of each weekly lesson he would always say ‘My  mom’s going to hear me play someday’.  But  to me,  it seemed  hopeless, he just did not have any inborn   ability.

I only  knew his mother from a distance as she dropped  Robby off or  waited in  her aged car to pick him up. She always waved  and smiled, but  never  dropped in.

Then one day Robby stopped  coming for his lessons. I thought  about  calling  him, but assumed that because of his lack of  ability he had  decided to  pursue something else. I was also glad that he  had stopped  coming –  he was a bad advertisement for my  teaching!

Several weeks later I mailed a  flyer recital to the students’ homes.  To  my  surprise, Robby (who had received a flyer) asked  me if he could be in  the  recital. I told him that the recital was for  current pupils and that because he had dropped  out, he really did not qualify.
He told me  that  his mother  had been sick and unable to take him to his  piano lessons, but that he had been practicing.  ‘Please Miss Honor, I’ve just got to  play’ he  insisted. I don’t know what led me to allow him  to play in the  recital –  perhaps it was his insistence or maybe something  inside of me  saying  that it would be all right.

The night of  the recital came and the high school   gymnasium was packed  with  parents, relatives and friends. I put Robby last  in the program,  just  before I was to come up and thank all the  students and play a finishing piece. I thought  that any damage he might do would come at  the  end of the  program and I could always salvage his poor  performance  through my  ‘curtain closer’.

Well, the recital went  off without a hitch, the students had  been  practicing  and it showed. Then Robby came up on the stage.  His clothes  were  wrinkled and his hair looked as though he had  run an egg beater  through  it.  ‘Why wasn’t he dressed up like the  other students?’  I  thought.  ‘Why didn’t his mother at least make him comb  his hair for this
special night?’  

 Robby  pulled out the piano bench, and I was  surprised  when he  announced that he had chosen to play Mozart’s  Concerto No.
21 in C Major. I was not  prepared for what I
heard next. His  fingers  were light  on the keys, they even danced nimbly on the  ivories. He went  from  pianissimo to fortissimo, from allegro to  virtuoso; his suspended  chords  that Mozart demands were magnificent!   

 Never had  I heard Mozart  played so  well by anyone his age.

After six and a  half minutes he ended in a grand crescendo, and  everyone  was on  their feet in wild applause!  Overcome and  in tears, I ran up on  stage and  put my arms
around Robby in joy.  ‘I  have never heard you play  like that  Robby, how did you do it?
‘   Through the microphone Robby  explained:  ‘Well, Miss Honor …. remember I told you that  my mom was  sick?  Well, she actually had cancer and passed away  this morning. And  well  …… she was born deaf, so tonight was the  first time she had  ever heard  me play, and I wanted to make it  special.’

There wasn’t a dry eye in the  house that evening. As the people  from  Social  Services led Robby from the stage to be placed  in to
foster care,  I noticed  that even their eyes were red and puffy. I  thought to myself  then how  much richer my life had been for taking Robby as  my pupil.

No,  I have  never had a prodigy, but that night I became a  prodigy ……. of  Robby.   He was the teacher and I was the pupil, for he  had taught me the  meaning of  perseverance and love and believing in yourself,  and may be even taking a chance on someone and  you didn’t know why.

Robby was killed  years later in the senseless bombing of the  Alfred P.  Murray  Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April,  1995.

“Manikant Mehta” <     16-4-2011


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