She would have "piano parties." These were potluck affairs. I remember three of them -- one was a St Patrick's day party, with a blarney stone centerpiece on the table, in a cauldron; the second was a Halloween party, for which my mom made a Chocolate Pumpkin Cake. This had been made by baking two separate cake mixes in one of those old Pyrex nesting bowls, gluing the flat surfaces together with frosting, covering the the entire thing in orange frosting, and adding a face of candy.
My favorite party memory was one that happened during the summer. Mrs. Cady started a, "Pops" club, that she invited all the older girls to (up to 8th grade). She set up a table outside in the warm sunshine under a poplar tree, where we had a little "tea" - it was Western themed - and one by one we would leave the table and play from a book of "Pop" songs that even then was outdated. The porch door was left open, and so as we ate we could hear each other play, "Baby Elephant Walk," "Michael Row the Boat Ashore," "Autumn Leaves," "Golden Earrings," or maybe, "Mona Lisa." I still have the book.
These are among my fondest childhood memories. And from day one, when I opened my studio, it was my goal to give the gift of equally fond memories to my students. So we have parties, where we play for each other. With food. I buy or make most of the food, because busy working moms just don't make Pyrex Chocolate Pumpkin cakes anymore. I give Christmas gifts - some of which I hope they will keep as long as I have kept my "Pops" book.
I treat each student as though he or she were the most important person in the world to me for the duration of their lessons. I channel my inner child, and we have lots and lots of fun. When they are working on their Db and Ab 5 finger scales, we have a small Oreo celebration. When they do the DAD "Yo-yo" exercise, they get to take a yo-yo home. (Some of them have never seen a yoyo!) My Christmas recitals are lavish, as are my end of the year "Pops" recitals (you know I had to do it!) And, sincerely and honestly, I delight in the quirks and idiosyncracies of each and every one of my students.
This isn't all just fun and games for me. I've spent most of my adult life working with children, and have done years and years of research and practice, learning what motivates them and what encourages creative thought. So it is with the utmost professionalism that I find it necessary to model for children how to stay in touch with that most creative little critter -- the inner four year old child.
Do they love it? I have found the oddest thing -- even when they are ready to move on -- when they really don't have time for lessons anymore -- they find the time to continue lessons for one or two days a month, if even for theory lessons alone. And music seems to be an integral part of their lives, although that may mean what they do now is strum the ukulele they thave taught themselves to play, while they sing.
I'm not an "easy" teacher, and when we are studying I am a perfectionist and perhaps insist a little *too* much that the rhythm be perfect, that the articulations are observed, that phrasing is learned, etc, etc., etc. But I try my best to create an environment where it is safe to make mistakes and learn how to correct them without shame.
And I find they practice more if I give them more challenging work. Mostly because it makes them proud of themselves when they can learn something that seems, "hard."
So. That's pretty much my life!!!! Beats the heck out of a cubicle, even if it doesn't make $80K a year. Thanks, Mrs. Gertrude P. Cady! I will never forget the day you looked at me and said, "Well, YOU should be a piano teacher when you grow up!"