I was in my third year of teaching when I decided that I needed more training. My student load was increasing and my employer at the time, Gordie Brandt’s Music was getting more confident in my abilities. Remember, my background was mostly music played on the organ. But, things were changing. Technology was changing. The plinkety-plink piano’s of the past were now high tech with digital sounds and disk drives. They were considerably cheaper than an organ with the same capabilities. And as the market changed more parents were enrolling their children for for piano lessons.
The course that I was taught was Technics. They published a course for organ and a pop keyboard version. They music wasn’t all that different, yet I knew I needed more knowledge…..more than I could teach myself. So I checked into some other teachers at the music school. There was a new teacher, Karen Berard, who had just moved to the city. She was very experienced and was a top notch teacher. She taught in the next classroom and we soon hit it off.
My first lesson with her was an eye opener. There was so much technical stuff that I had missed out on with my previous teachers. She drilled me relentlessly. Sometimes, I think she must have wondered how I got to be a teacher without knowing these things. I wondered too why anybody had faith in me.
I don’t remember what my lesson day or time was. I know that I had one hour lessons before we had to teach. It was fun. Karen had a way about her. She was my age and was strict…..without being strict. If I goofed up, she would laugh about it. She was patient. She was silly. Karen turned out to be one of my best friends.
I took my Grade 5 Royal Conservatory certificate with her. But because of her changing circumstances she was not able to teach me for Grade 6. But I was able to do part of my Grade 8 certificate with her. What I really learned from her was so much more than the notes on the page or what a minor sixth interval sounds like. It wasn’t perfection, but an attitude…...or a way to be Me and the teacher and the student all rolled into one. What ever it was, she made me willing to practice like I’d never practiced before.
We had the same battles. Karen was not overweight by any means, but always worked hard to keep thin. We would go walking together early in the morning at the Communiplex and then sometimes we wouldn’t! Sometimes she would show up at my door and say “I don’t feel like walking today…..how about we go to Robin’s Donuts?” She once confided in me that she had moved around so much over the past few years that she had never really had any good friends. She said I was probably her closest friend.
One night, I showed up for my lesson at her apartment. Karen greeted me at the door and informed me that they had to move again. This time to High River Alberta. Her husband had either gotten a job there or was going to go to school there, I can’t exactly remember now. Her mother was there helping her pack. It was sad. I could really tell that she didn’t want to move. She had wanted roots.
I talked to her once after that on the phone. Her relationship was not going well. I heard through the grapevine that they were divorcing. Then a number of years later, I heard she bought a new piano from my employer and was living in Red Deer. I hope she finally found happiness. I hope she was finally able to put down roots.
I finished my Grade 8 certificate with another teacher. But I didn’t take any formal lessons after that. What I learned from Karen was far more valuable to me than a certificate. I think I am successful just the way I am. I haven’t had a friend like her since either. If I ever have the chance to talk to her again, I would definitely say “thank-you.”