Thursday, March 23, 2017


The organ teacher asked him to play.  So Liam sat down to play his version of "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" on the Steinway piano in the church.  He seemed to be enjoying the perfect tuning and rich tone of the instrument as he worked his way through what he knew of the piece.  He still uses odd fingering and his pace is all over the place.

I watched Liam and I watched her face.  Wonder and concern flitted across her features in turn.  We talked about the difficulty in getting him to practice skills outside of a piece itself.  She reached around him and demonstrated a simple piece of music to work proper fingering.  He followed her clam, insistent hands.

She invited him to join her at the organ.  He could finally hear the piece as it was intended, on the full organ.  She showed him how the stops worked and he played with sounds, finally letting loose with all stops out.  Aware of the folks working in the church office, the teacher tried to push some stops back in, but he would have none of it - he wanted that big, full sound.  Sonically, as usual, he made it sound good, but technically, as usual, it was a slippery mess.

After some time, my husband and I discussed her assessment.  "He's very talented - such ears! And I want to work with him, but I worry, in my heart, that I won't know how to reach him."

"Oh, that's fine." I said, "We feel that way every day."

She smiled, but still looked a little worried.  "If you'd rather not take him on, I understand, but you should know that every teacher who meets him feels the same way.  You will find a way to reach him.  Just be direct and insistent.  Make the boundaries clear, and he will learn to follow your lead.  We don't know where it will lead, either, but if he's excited about something, you can use it to your advantage!"

We agreed to go for it and see if they can find their groove.  When he finished his first lesson, Liam shouted from behind the huge instrument, "I'm an ORGANIST!" then raised both arms with thumbs-up.

And so we've added another teacher to Liam's life, with another set of keys.  I know from experience that all teachers (myself included) spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to unlock his potential.  Sometimes it feels like coming home late on a Saturday night with no porch light as you fumble to find the right key and get it into the lock, before either dropping the damn keys or scratching the hell out of the door.

But I also know that with patience, and persistence, talent and imagination, potential becomes reality.  Liam's art teacher Linda, at Pastimes for a Lifetime, has helped him grow in this way.  His raw talent is apparent, and now it's taking form in ways that other people can enjoy.  Here are a few of his recent works, unlocked by a teacher who found the right keys:

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