Tag Archives: Stories

Elegy for a music teacher

Mrs. Hooper, my first piano teacher.   Her spirit exists in the music I make now...
Mrs. Hooper, my first piano teacher. Her spirit exists in the music I make now…

Today I received news that my childhood piano teacher, Maureen Hooper, died this morning.  With tears in my eyes, as a ripened musician, I tell you that I truly love my music teachers.

Mrs. Hooper was the first.

I dutifully attended weekly lessons at her house a few blocks away from the age of 6 to 16.  She gave me the basics of music.  How to read.  How to apply music-theory.  How Chopin was romance, Debussy was a paint brush, and Mozart was ecstasy.  How to understand emotions and phrasing.   “Now, again, with feeling!” she’d say.   And oh how I remember the incessant command to my 6 year old self:  “Curve your fingers, dear!”

I admit I got away with a lot as a relatively talented student.  I didn’t practice many days, and became very good at tricking Mrs. Hooper into thinking I had labored through the week.  Cheerily, she placed a check mark on each exercise or piece I’d learned to her satisfaction, or placed a new date next to the tunes that had not been mastered.  When I did work hard and shined with progress, she would chirp, with her wonderful British accent, “Well done, Esther.  Well done!

I don’t play the piano much these days, but I still know my scales.  I curve my fingers.  I sight-read with slow delight.  I lean my weight into the keys.  I shape a phrase with passion.

And I carry every bit of musical technique and wisdom she taught me into my singing, dulcimer, flute playing, performance and recordings.

My favorite bit of wisdom from Mrs. Hooper, which I will always cherish:

“Esther, you mustn’t practice your mistakes.”

Goodbye, Mrs. Hooper.  I will miss you.  You were a great teacher and human being.  Well done.  Well done.

Hauling music gear through belly deep snow

About one year ago (Feb 29th be exact – leap year!) I packed up many things musical, and departed for Fairbanks, Alaska to begin recording my new CD Stay Warm at 10th Planet, the beloved studio of the North Woods. Here’s a little photo documentary and video clip of the journey from cabin to car atop belly-deep snow.

This was the typical scenario whenever I was leaving to play a gig or go to the studio in winter in Alaska.  Music could not be made without a blue plastic sled at hand.

Click on any photo in the gallery below to start a slideshow – the captions will show above each picture.

Here’s a little video of an exuberant me setting off on my musical adventure.   And now a year later, my 11-song baby is finally  getting ready to be sent to press.   Sometimes it feels like the whole last 12 months, with all its creations and changes, was one big swashbuckling slog through deep snow…