Every Young Person Needs a Hero

 I remember it as if it were yesterday.

I was eighteen years old, fresh and excited as I could be about majoring in piano in college. My early years of musical study were shaky due to family finances, but the first time I’d ever witnessed an advanced classical piano piece performed in the 8th grade--I knew I’d found my life calling. A future of rags or riches? I couldn’t have cared less. All I knew is that I’d found my true passion. My mother’s influence was enormous, since she’d played classical recordings since I’d been born.

When I first arrived on campus at my small private university and saw this attractive woman in her early seventies, I didn’t realize she soon would become my role model and hero. But the first time I heard her perform a full length recital, I was captivated, aghast in utter amazement and thrilled beyond words. I knew immediately it would be the honor of my lifetime to have her as my teacher. While I watched her perform Liszt’s spectacular Tarantella, I felt as though I’d entered a different dimension. Her hands moved so rapidly they blurred. And her fairly large body lifted, airborne at times, executing Liszt’s extreme pyrotechnic demands. Sometimes she landed on the bench with such force I wondered if either the bench or piano could survive. It was like watching a female Liszt. But then, she could play gently, singing the unforgettable melodies with her fingers like an angel.

As I began my studies with her, every second of our lessons grew more precious each week. Before long, she moved me last in her schedule, so that time was no longer a concern. I was like a sponge, soaking up every drop of instruction she so willingly gave. I remember once she even gave me a five hour lesson on one single piece, the Brahms Ballade in g minor. As she stomped around the room, pounded the piano with her baton, screaming “louder, more forceful!” or “back off now, more, make it lyrical,” I obeyed as though she was the Commander in Chief. But she was so much more than that, she was my Hero and my Idol. Following her musical leadership felt invigorating, like I’d just climbed the highest mountain!

 For four years I followed her instructions precisely. She scolded me gently, and yet brutally, if I slacked off on any given week, but praised me grandly when I performed to her satisfaction. It was the greatest joy of my lifetime when I performed my senior recital with her and to this day, over 25 years later, I still have the card that she wrote to me after the recital, claiming she’d never been prouder of any student in her forty year career. I will treasure that note until the day I die.

I’ve always thought if I can have just a tenth of the impact this woman had on me to my own students, then I would feel I’d achieved more than I could ever have dreamed. And she was funny, too, once I got to know her personally, constantly performing absent-minded actions while rambling on about the wonders of Mozart and her days as an opera diva--something I never even knew until later in my studies with her.

When I created Dr. Fuddle in my novel Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton, I had this iconic woman in mind, a being filled with ironies, highly accomplished, yet funny, warm and loving; strict, but generous with praise on a job well done. I will never forget my Beloved Teacher and the memories of the day she passed away, many years ago, still brings tears to my eyes. May she ever live on in immortality through Dr. Fuddle.

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