Saying Goodbye

The run-up to spring recital is always chaotic. Normally there are about six weeks of lessons focused on recital work, rehearsals with Eliza, our wonderful, kind and patient accompanist here at the studio, programs to write, space to rent, lemonade and cake, always the cake. This season there is the added chajoy (chaos + joy) of having three seniors graduating. So now there is corralling added to the mix. Corralling seniors to rehearse a duet is like herding cats. Even when the commotion stops for a minute, there is a buzz of activity in our ears.

Ella started with me when she was about eight years old. She was at the Waldorf school where I already had several students. She was tiny with dark hair. She would look up at me with the solemn demeanor of a traffic cop. I remember her lessons were filled with my emotional juggling trying to get her to crack, give me a smile, a ticket...something.

She was always musically talented and could pick things up quickly. As she moved into being a tween there were times when she felt that her pretty sharp sight-reading skills might pass for actually having practiced...but between her having a savvy musical mom and myself we came through that stage.

When she entered high school she really came into her own musically. She played several instruments as a favor to the band instructor as well as continuing to study the cello. Suddenly doing well began to matter to her, not just me. Lessons that had been filled with cajoling became filled with...well more cajoling but now there was a grudging acceptance of it due to the newfound knowledge that work actually works!

We’d sit a minute at the start of each lesson and catch up - acknowledging that within each young musician there also lies a life filled with boyfriends and breakups and prom. At the end of each lesson there was a hug goodbye. In the early years that hug was a side hug hanging heavily off my side. But, as time progressed I’d find her standing in the hall waiting - the hug became the release and the reassurance.

I’ve raised four sons. Stood in the parking lot of several colleges and watched them walk away from the car and into their futures. Part of my job, as a parent, as a teacher, is to know when the time has come for them to make that walk.

I really hate that part.

In prepping students in performance skills, I teach them to vibrate their final note long past the finish of the piece. This is so that the sound continues to vibrate as it slowly dissipates into the air.

Or maybe it is really because I just don’t want the sound to end.

Melissa Perley