Everybody has a friend who’s in a book club. If you want to start one, you can buy a book that will tell you how. Some books even come with “book club” guides to tell you how to lead a discussion on that particular book.
I think what makes book clubs so successful is that they give people a place to talk about something that is an otherwise solitary experience. Reading a book is a wonderful thing, but often when you finish it you want to say, “Didn’t you just love the part where Annie finally told John that she was leaving him?” and have someone say, “Yes. I thought she’d NEVER do it.”
Practicing the piano can be as lonely as reading a book. You play for your teacher, but that’s not always enough. It’s important to have a place to share that experience with other people who can understand and appreciate your hard work.
My adult students get together about 5 times a year. We always meet at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoons (in honor of Vladimir Horowitz, the illustrious Russian pianist who would only play on Sundays at 4pm.)
I hold these gatherings at my student Dave’s beautiful Victorian apartment. He’s a retired psychiatrist with a gorgeous Steinway and a home full of art. Sometimes there’s a painting missing from his walls when it’s on loan to a museum. His home is peaceful and comfortable. Yesterday he filled his huge crystal vases with star gazer lilies and blue irises. It was a chilly, rainy day so he lit a fire: the perfect atmosphere for an afternoon of music.
Judith, a college professor, played the Schumann piece, “Child Falling Asleep“. Though she began as a complete beginner just over ten years ago, she has developed into a beautiful pianist. She is at the top of her field professionally, but playing the piano for others is a challenge to her nerves. Yesterday she won the battle over her nerves and we got to hear her gorgeous playing.
Richard, a retired transportation engineer, played the Bach C Minor Prelude & Fugue from W.T.C. Book II and El Puerto by Albeniz. He has played the piano his whole life and taken it up with gusto in his retirement. He’s getting better all the time. Yesterday he played especially well. His next piece will be a Haydn sonata and he’s excited to get started on it.
Barbara, a grandmother in her late 70’s, played six pieces from Schumann’s “Davidbundler” absolutely gorgeously. She plays with such love and passion. She looks like a grandmother who would love to bake you some yummy cookies; she plays like a demon and is a most professional musician.
Dave, our host, played the first movement of the Bach E Minor English Suite. After many years of not-so-subtle hints from me, Dave finally worked on this piece consistently with the metronome. It was fabulous.
Sruti, a high school senior who drives more than an hour one way to study with me each Friday afternoon, (that’s parental dedication!) played the Mozart D Major Rondo and the Chopin F Major Waltz. They were both brand new pieces and they were sparkling and full of energy.
Finally Yung-Yee, a senior piano major from Stanford University, played the Bach B flat Partita and the Chopin Ocean Etude. Yung-Yee is a petite young woman who surprised everyone in the room with her incredible virtuosity and passionate playing.
One of my favorite things about teaching piano to adults is the marvelous mixture of people who meet through music. I enjoy bringing together people who would otherwise probably never meet. I delight in the conversations that unfold among people of different ages, races, and professions.
And I bet they’d all agree with me; it’s better than a book club.