When I was in the third grade, my mother bought an old upright piano. She had always wanted to play when she was a little girl but never had the opportunity. She decided I should take piano lessons.
I hated to practice. I’d have my girlfriend come over to ask if I could come out to play. “Not until she’s practiced the piano,” my mother would say.
By high school I had grown to love playing the piano and decided that I wanted to become a concert pianist, touring the world to perform in concerts and recitals. My high school music teacher (and my mother) persuaded me that the sensible thing to do was to become a music teacher so I could support myself. The New England Conservatory of Music had a music education program, and I was accepted.
My dreams of performing around the world ended when I had to pay back college loans and had no money for graduate school. But all worked out. I recently retired after 34 years of teaching music and chorus in public schools. My students sang in spring performances, winter concerts and at nursing homes. One, in fact, is still performing in Manhattan nightclubs.
Another one of my students came up to me after a concert and told me her mother wanted to say hello because I had taught her as well. I thought, “That can’t be right!” But yes, after doing the math, it certainly was.
I also did the math to see whom I’ve touched with music. I multiplied 34 years by the average number of students in each of my choruses (100), times the number of performances they gave, added the people who attended the concerts and the students who listened in my classes, and, well, the total gets to be a little overwhelming, but happily so.
My legacy is the gift of music—a gift that I know will keep on giving as parents whom I’ve taught continue to encourage their children to sing and to pass on the joy that comes from this wonderful art form.
I just wish my mother were alive so I could thank her for those piano lessons.
The AARP Bulletin’s What I Really Know column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Judi Francis is a reader from Swampscott, Mass.