By the end of grade seven I was finishing my clarinet career and trading up into the keyboard world. Originally, I wanted to be in a band. Be a rock star. Be on MTV. My Dad bought me an inexpensive keyboard/synthesizer. I could already read treble clef notes and I was trying to play a little by ear. I would put the rhythms on and play away....dream.
One day, my Dad came home to say that if I was no longer going to play in the school band then I would have to take some other activity. He gave me the choice...piano or organ lessons.
Let me take you back. This was about 1984-ish. Piano's were not digital. Piano's were the standard upright or baby grand vintage. Keyboards were just coming out. The organ on the other hand was awesome. They had drums and all kinds of sounds. Organs were cool. I chose Organ lessons. I know what you're thinking...not many organ rock groups out there. I didn't care.
I should probably explain a huge difference between the piano and organ. People get them mixed up all the time and it drives me insane. The piano has one keyboard of 88 keys. The organ has two keyboards, foot pedals [much like a keyboard to be played with the left foot] and the expression pedal, for the right foot. WARNING: Those who are uncoordinated should not attempt the feat of playing the organ.
My teacher was a little chinese lady named Su Ling Lo. I was signed up for the 8 Week Introductory Course for $99. I would go into the basement which housed the music school and wait patiently every week. When the eight weeks were over I continued. She said I had promise. I learned quickly. I was good. I rocked.
The most vivid memory of her that I have and probably something that become one of my own vices was her pens and pencils. She had different colors laying about all over the organ. Su Ling would want to make a correction. Look about bewildered, and grab another pen or pencil from her desk. Which, no doubt would be lost in the jumble of other discarded pens and pencils littering the organs surface.
For one of the competitions I entered I chose a Beatles tune. P.S. I Love You. I don't remember being nervous. No butterflies. I would win second place....always a point behind Caroline Haugen. For three years, every festival we would play in we would be against eachother. She would place first and I....second. One time we had to play a duet. I knew my part inside out and backwards. I was infuriated when Caroline messed up. Even then I was a perfectionist. Where is she now? That's a subject for another Blog.
My parents were always supportive of my efforts. Dad would come home from a long day at work and plop down in his favorite chair in the livingroom.
"Play that song for me," he'd say.
"The one that relaxes me."
I'd flip pages to Endless Love and play away. Pretty soon Dad would not only be relaxed, but asleep. I'm still not sure if it's a good thing that my playing put him to sleep!
The third year that Su Ling Lo was my teacher, she decided to combine students into groups. There was four of us in a group all playing organ. The problem was that two of us practiced and two of us didn't and sometimes one wouldn't show up at all. I was one that practiced. In fact, I would often be called up to the front of a class to demonstrate songs.
So here I am displaying songs in Su Ling Lo's organ class. I could do anything she asked. Rock, Waltz, Rhumba and Disco....no prob. Su Ling was a great teacher. She gave me the basics. She was a horrible Theory teacher though. She may as well have been trying to teach me chinese. It made no sense. Gibberish.
I was probably about 14 to 15 years of age then. I was so far ahead of the other people in the organ group that I was hindered from progressing. We asked if I could again have private lessons. When we got the notice of the new schedule I couldn't believe what she had done to me. I was booked for Friday nights at 8 o'clock. Friday night to a 15 year old is totally unreasonable. Unthinkable. Friday was movie night.
Dad and I took off for the music store and inquired about changing teachers. Not a problem, we were told. This was the end of my organ lessons with Su Ling Lo and her pen and pencil fetish.