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This is a true story about how playing the piano saved a young boy’s life, who was severally beaten and abused by his alcoholic father.
Music not only Transformed his Life, but Music Saved his Life!
No, I am not telling the story of Beethoven, but the story of Elijah, a young boy who is now a young man, who was once one of my former piano students.
I was a young College Freshman studying piano performance, living in a cheap apartment complex, and teaching piano to pay for my College Tuition and to pay the bills. Elijah and his parents lived next door, and his mom asked me about piano lessons for him. I agreed to teach him.
Elijah was 11 years old when he started studying piano with me. He came faithfully every week to his piano lesson, he was always well groomed, always prepared and eager to learn more. He was a shy boy, very respectful and very well behaved. He always came dressed in long jeans and a long flannel shirt, even in the middle of the burning hot Arizona summers, and I always wondered if he was hot in those clothes? But I thought “maybe he likes to dress like this” and dismissed that thought and concentrated on our piano lesson.
Elijah took lessons for years, participated in my recitals, festivals, the Arizona Study Program and my weekend music workshops. He became quite good and fairly advanced, and I always wondered how he managed to accomplish this, because he didn’t have a piano, just a cheap little keyboard that wasn’t even big enough to practice with both hands!
But one day his mom called me and told me that she could no longer afford the piano lessons, so that’s the last time I heard from Elijah….
…until 20 years later!!!…the story of Elijah continues…
I am sitting in front of my computer, checking my Facebook, and someone by the name of Elijah wanted to befriend me on Facebook, yet there was no message attached. But I immediately recognized his first and last name and knew he was that shy boy who came to me for piano lessons so many moons ago. I messaged him, and he confirmed that he was indeed my student a long long long time ago.
We started chatting on Facebook, and he confessed that he never wanted to stop playing the piano and wanted to become a teacher just like me, but his mom was just too poor to continue paying for the lessons. At that time, this was fine with me, because I had just moved into a house, had my first baby, was still going to school, and needed time off from teaching anyways. However, Elijah told me that he came by my house several times, because he missed the piano and the music so much, but he was too shy to knock on my door and tell me this.
As our Facebook conversation continued, he showered me with compliments, and I had no idea that I had this much influence and made such a huge impact on a young boy’s life: this is what he told me:
“You were a great teacher. I always liked you. My lessons were a break from my home life for me. I know right it seems like yesterday you were telling me I should quit playing sports. & focus on the piano. Time does go by fast! Ha…… I thought I was cool stuff back then. I used to brag about your skills on the piano. You always amazed me how good you were.”
Haha, yes, as music teachers we always compete against the sports coaches!
But see, playing the piano makes you feel like you are “cool stuff!!!”
I always thought that his mom was a sweet lady, but I noticed that something was off with his dad, so I asked him what he meant by “piano lessons giving him a break from his home life?”
This was his answer: “The home life: My Dad beat me up pretty good all the time. It’s why I used to wear pants & long sleeves a lot to cover my bruises. My mom was pretty cool for the most part. My friend’s mom was a teacher at Paradise Valley High School & he went & got his mom when he saw choke marks around my neck. She was going to call the Cops, but I moved out so my dad didn’t go to prison or jail. I’ve been on my own since.”
Do you remember the long pants and long flannel shirt I mentioned in the beginning, and how I always wondered why he would wear this stuff in the middle of summer? Well, now I got the answer! This is so so sad, it brings me to tears! No child should have to suffer like this!
Most kids that suffer this kind of abuse fall through the cracks and never make it, but not Elijah: “Yah the piano & lessons with you were what kept me sane when I lived at home. That’s why I used to practice so much on my Hanon Study guide. So I got good & my mom would let me play still. She was just too poor to keep paying lessons. And I kinda got depressed when my grandfather passed. Otherwise I would have paid you myself, cause I never wanted to stop. I thought I might grow up & be a teacher like you someday. I liked the shows we performed & everything you had me do at grand canyon university. You kept me motivated & out of trouble.”
When I asked him how he managed to get so good and advanced without a piano, this was his answer:
“School, churches, wherever I could get my hands on one. I used to go to piano stores to look at nice ones.”
Not having a piano did not stop Elijah: “Ha…. I remember having to practice one handed for my songs cause my keyboard was too small lol….”
This proves once again that you can do anything you set your mind to, and that you can have whatever you want, if you just want it bad enough and love it enough: “I used to love the recitals, too. You did cool stuff for us as students. Lol I didn’t normally get along with teachers or instructors, but you were a great and cool teacher, so I listened to you.”
This story also proves once again how important music education is. Music is part of our soul and part of our culture and should be taught to everyone and practiced by everyone!
Elijah did not become a piano teacher like me, but he uses his hands to do great and important work: he became a carpenter, who remodels and paints million dollar homes, banks and stores. He was always good with his hands, he could play the piano, even when he didn’t have one!
His music kept him going, gave him hope in those dark childhood times, taught him patience and diligence, quenched his soul and heart with sweet melodies, gave him a feeling of belonging, music taught him how to be human.
This was a true story of a boy by the name of Elijah.
Music not only Transformed his Life, but Music Saved his Life!
Music Transforms You