When I was finished with lessons from Su Ling Lo I went to a new teacher, Claude Rivet. He was a middle aged Frenchman who’s secret [I think] was that he wanted to be a rock star. He taught out of the basement of his house and was able to teach me more contemporary music and even jazz.
I would play and he would accompany me on his piano or keyboard. He’d dance around and make faces to our playing. He had lots of practical information. He let me arrange and be as creative as I wanted to be. I was always a step ahead or sometimes several steps ahead. I could always go and learn things on my own. I don’t know if this frustrated him or just made his job easier.
At one of these Step Ahead Lessons, he asked if I would start on the next song.
“I can play it already.” I stated. But little did he know that I could not only already play it, but I had been working on if for quite a while. I had made introductions, accompaniment variations, sound and drum choices….everything.
“Okay, play it for me.” I think he didn’t believe me. I played. I played my heart out. The song was ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’. I probably liked the song so much because Corey Hart was singing it on the radio then. Gosh, that sure dates me doesn’t it? At any rate, when I was done playing the last note, I turned to look at Claude. “WOW!” He exclaimed and somewhat shocked. He praised me up and down for what I did and then we moved on to the next song.
I ventured to his house every week for about 2 years and then he moved to teach in the Gordie Brandt’s Music Academy which had opened in a run down creaky ex movie theatre. It was during one of these lessons in this spooky old place that Claude informed me that he was getting out of teaching. I don’t remember what he was going to do, just that he was moving on. He explained that he had taught me everything he knew and he really didn’t feel that he could take me any farther. What he did need though, was someone to teach a couple beginner keyboard students of his on Saturday mornings. He asked me if I would want to try my hand at teaching and reassured me by saying that he would be around to keep an eye on me. I agreed.
So in the spring of the year I was 17 I began teaching. That was about cough cough ahem cough years ago. Claude did keep his eye on me. I taught for the Prince Albert Academy of Music as the old Gordie Brandt’s had gone bankrupt. One day he contacted me. He offered me the job of school director as they were trying to reopen Gordie Brandt’s. I declined. Not because I couldn’t do the job, but because I just didn’t trust that a new business would fly. I was right to go with my gut feelings. I also found out that one of the reasons Claude had quit teaching was because of a health condition much like MS which he had fought his way back from.
Many years after this and just when I was beginning to feel burnt out from teaching we crossed paths again. I was working in Cotton Ginny in the mall and I happened to cut through the furniture store where he was working as a salesman. I told him how I was feeling and that I just needed to prove to myself that I could do other things. He said he understood, but that it was a shame because I was a natural. Claude told me that he even was getting back into teaching after all those years.
I haven’t seen Claude for about 5 years now. But I often think of his bopping around to music while we were practising together. I hope that I can bring such fond memories to my students and help them gain an appreciation for music the way Claude Rivet did for me.