The Music Teacher That Changed Your Life

If you ever learned an instrument as a child, you remember the lessons, the teachers, the feelings of failure and frustration from not positioning your fingers correctly or bombing a recital, and hopefully you remember the ecstasy of playing powerful music. In the Spring 2014 Issue of The Gettysburg Review, Aviya Kushner writes about the impact Chopin had on her life, starting as a young girl, and carrying her into her adulthood trying to make art for a living.

I remember only two rules from my childhood—brush your teeth and practice the piano. I played scales, Hanon exercises, little pieces, and eventually, preludes and études. Sometimes it sounded so bad I couldn’t stand to listen. I rarely played a piece perfectly, but I somehow played through many of the classics of music. I plodded through Haydn, Bach, Beethoven, and the easier impromptus of Schumann. I struggled and slowly made it through the rhapsodies of Liszt.

And then, when I was a high-school student, Mrs. Berkwic introduced me to a composer I could finally play. For a while, I thought I was in love with Chopin. I related to his tempers, his swing of mood, the way a mazurka would leap from slow and stately to racing and furious. It was the way I felt then, crying one minute and laughing the other.

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