My husband and I have been dreaming of moving to Star Valley for several years now. We're so grateful to be here and to be living in our dream-home-in-progress, but of all the people and things we left behind in California, the one I have been really mourning is our piano teacher. Eve and Sadie have only been taking lessons for about two years, but their teacher was truly one in a million. She read music like I read a stop sign, she lived to play and to teach, she demanded and received excellence from all her students, and she spent nearly a decade studying piano and musical education. I knew before we ever left, that even if we could find a teacher like her in Wyoming, we could never afford her without the charter school funding we received in California. I asked around in Thayne, sat in on a lesson, watched the ladies playing in church, and settled on a teacher for this year. She plays beautifully, the kids love her, and she is wholeheartedly dedicated to my girls' success at piano, but I was still pouting a little that I didn't have a virtuoso to teach my kids piano.
Then Eve and Sadie had their first recital. Their teacher has only been in the Valley for a couple of years, so none of her students are amazingly accomplished. I was pouting a little more, thinking about the nearly austere formality of our California recitals, a formality which signaled to parents and students alike that piano is more than a passing hobby, but serious brain work, and worthy of our time and effort. Here kids were crawling under the chairs, some students forgot to bow or announce themselves (including mine), even the venue was unknown until the last minute. I'm used to bringing the loud family, but I felt like we were the staid and boring ones this time, even though we arrived 10 minutes late.
But halfway through the Old McDonald's and Jingle Bell duets, our teacher and her best friend (who also had students in this recital), sat down to play “A Child's Prayer,” together. The music was moving, and watching these two women play together made me misty eyed. Both of them have young children at home, they organize the annual Star Valley Music Festival, they sing in the choir, they play organ and piano at church, they're involved in their kids' schools, and they participate in community events. These two are all about their own families, and yet, they somehow find time to serve my family too. These are the role models I want my girls to emulate. I want all my kids to pursue excellence in music as in the rest of their education, but I want them to have their priorities straight like their teacher, Angela, and her colleague, Cecily. These women put family first, and they still make time for music and their community. They are living proof that you can practice every day and work hard on your recital piece and still bring your cat in a box and let your kids play under the chairs. These are women who know that substance is a higher object than form, that it's better to jettison ancillaries like formality than to give short shrift to the important work of family, music and community. I want my kids to learn these lessons from Angela, because they're just as important as scales.