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Monday, August 2, 2010

Worth Reading

You have probably seen this before but it is a touching story and worthy
of the time to read again.

My name is Mildred Hondorf. I am a former elementary school music
teacher from Des Moines , Iowa .

I've always supplemented my income by teaching piano lessons-something
I've done for over 30 years. Over the years I found that children have many
levels of musical ability. I've never had the pleasure of having a prodigy
though I have taught some talented students.

However I've also had my share of what I call 'musically challenged'
pupils. One such student was Robby. Robby was 11 years old when his mother
(a single Mom) dropped him off for his first piano lesson.

I prefer that students (especially boys!) begin at an earlier age, which I
explained to Robby. But Robby said that it had always been his mother's
dream to hear him play the piano. So I took him as a student.

Well, Robby began with his piano lessons and from the beginning I thought
it was a hopeless endeavor. As much as Robby tried, he lacked the sense of
tone and basic rhythm needed to excel. But he dutifully reviewed his scales
and some elementary pieces that I require all my students to learn.

Over the months he tried and tried while I listened and cringed and tried
to encourage him. At the end of each weekly lesson he'd always say 'My
mom's going to hear me play someday.' But it seemed hopeless. He just did
not have any inborn ability.

I only knew his mother from a distance as she dropped Robby off or waited
in her aged car to pick him up. She always waved and smiled but never
stopped in.

Then one day Robby stopped coming to our lessons.
I thought about calling him but assumed because of his lack of ability,
that he had decided to pursue something else. I also was glad that he
stopped coming. He was a bad advertisement for my teaching!

Several weeks later I mailed to the student's homes a flyer on the
upcoming recital. To my surprise Robby (who received a flyer) asked me if
he could be in the recital. I told him that the recital was for current
pupils and because he had dropped out he really did not qualify. He said
that his mother had been sick and unable to take him to piano lessons but
he was still practicing. 'Miss Hondorf, I've just got to play!' he

I don't know what led me to allow him to play in the recital. Maybe it was
his persistence or maybe it was something inside of me saying that it would
be all right. The night for the recital came. The high school gymnasium was
packed with parents, friends and relatives. I put Robby up last in the
program before I was to come up and thank all the students and play a
finishing piece. I thought that any damage he would do would come at the
end of the program and I could always salvage his poor performance through
my 'curtain closer'.

Well, the recital went off without a hitch. The students had been
practicing and it showed. Then Robby came up on stage. His clothes were
wrinkled and his hair looked like he'd run an eggbeater through it.

'Why didn't he dress up like the other students?' I thought. 'Why didn't
his mother at least make him comb his hair for this special night?'

Robby pulled out the piano bench and he began. I was surprised when he
announced that he had chosen Mozart's Concerto #21 in C Major. I was not
prepared for what I heard next. His fingers were light on the keys; they
even danced nimbly on the ivories. He went from pianissimo to fortissimo,
from allegro to virtuoso. His suspended chords that Mozart demands were
magnificent! Never had I heard Mozart played so well by people his age.

After six and a half minutes he ended in a grand crescendo and everyone
was on their feet in wild applause.

Overcome and in tears I ran up on stage and put my arms around Robby in
joy. 'I've never heard you play like that Robby! How'd you do it?'

Through the microphone Robby explained: 'well Miss Hondorf . . . Remember
I told you my Mom was sick? Well, actually she had cancer and passed away
this morning. And well . . She was born deaf so tonight was the first time
she ever heard me play. I wanted to make it special.'

There wasn't a dry eye in the house that evening. As the people from
Social Services led Robby from the stage to be placed into foster care,
noticed that even their eyes were red and puffy and I thought to myself how
much richer my life had been for taking Robby as my pupil.

No, I've never had a prodigy but that night I became a prodigy, of
Robby's. He was the teacher and I was the pupil for it is he that taught me
the meaning of perseverance and love and believing in yourself and maybe
even taking a chance in someone and you don't know why.

Robby was killed in the senseless bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal
Building in Oklahoma City in April of 1995.