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My Greatest Accomplishment So Far - 2016

(No it's not marrying Fred)

I am not a natural talent. I cannot play by ear although I wish I could. In the back of my mind I always thought I would be able to play one day. I took lessons for a couple of years as a child. My Mother insisted we all learn a musical instrument. But I lost interest. My great song as a child was "When the Saints go Marching In" – not very impressive. Certainly not a child prodigy.

Fast forward 30 years. I was 43 and just returned from a three-year honeymoon. I was decorating our new home. I told my husband that I thought all houses look better with a piano. He said, "You don't even play." I said, "But I will." He brushed off the thought but acquiesced. He agreed that pianos are beautiful works of art. The talented designer Dakota Jackson was doing our furniture. Ironically, he also makes pianos and plays beautifully. We commissioned a one of a kind concert grand piano by Steinway- designed by Dakota. Nine months later at the Steinway warehouse in Queens the work of art was displayed. Dakota played and so did the President of Steinway. I cried tears of joy. I was so touched. It was beyond spectacular. The men gave me the name of a piano teacher in Miami.

Dr. Lark was not only a Juilliard graduate but also a retired medical doctor. Upon our first meeting he announced, "First we have Bach, then Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt, and Chopin. Then he played. I was in awe. I love classical piano music. I told Dr. Lark that I wanted to learn my favorite song "Clair de Lune" by Claude Debussy and "Prelude in C-Sharp Minor" by Sergei Rachmaninoff. He objected, "Those are very complex pieces- too difficult for you." I replied, "If you won't teach me then I'll find someone who will." This is the difference between learning as an adult or learning as a child. As an adult I knew what I wanted and was not shy.

So it began. Two hour piano lessons three times per week starting with the basics. I barely remembered where middle C was located in the 88 keys! I practiced a lot. Sometimes eight hours per day. I wanted to be good. This was also a busy time. I was traveling with my husband for business. I always made sure there was a piano available in the hotels. And a keyboard on our plane. Then my Mother became ill. I went to Washington state to care for her. The doctors said she had six months to live. My brothers and I were in denial. Finally, I brought her to Miami where I had more help. She loved listening to me practice. It was soothing. She used to play beautifully but stopped after having four children. My Mother always remembered the opening cords to the Rachmaninoff prelude. She played them occasionally. Then it happened. Her passing was devastating.

Now practicing piano became cathartic. A release. It took my mind off the void. The overwhelming feeling of missing someone. I could finally play!

A few months later my thoughtful husband presented me with a box for our fifth wedding anniversary. Inside contained exquisite jewelry and a mysterious contract. A contract to play at Carnegie Hall. This is crazy! I am not a trained pianist. And it's a lot of pressure! But I was flattered. I had one year to prepare. Needless to say I increased the practicing tenfold. I began playing in front of people. When playing classical piano if you lose your train of thought you are screwed. It is not like giving a speech.

The concert date was fast approaching. A huge party at Carnegie Hall was being planned. We invited nearly 500 of our closest friends. I flew in all my family. The Grammy-award winning jazz group, Michel Camilo would perform. Along with a comedian and a few other acts. I would play two songs. A spectacular event was promised.

Dr. Lark was still coming over three times per week. But something odd was happening. I was getting a strange vibe from my esteemed piano instructor. The double-lessons three times per week were not cheap. I would sign the invoice and Dr. Lark would submit them to my accountant. The accountant would send the check directly to the doctor. I trusted both men implicitly. I became suspicious because of the increased invoices I was asked to sign. One night I started doing the math. Something didn't add up. The next morning, I called my accountant and asked for the records. By these calculations Dr. Lark had been overpaid by $50,000. I was stupefied. This was beyond belief. How could this happen? Dr. Lark had stolen from me. That was the only probable explanation. I didn't want to believe it. I was hurt. Why would he do this? I made the call, in a calm voice I explained what I had discovered. The doctor was indignant. He said it was a mistake. He claimed innocence. He shouted that money meant nothing to him. He proclaimed I was his star student and would teach me for free. He dropped off a check the next day for $50,000. Although never admitting guilt. A profoundly sad day. I completely lost respect for my teacher. I would not be able to learn another musical note from this man. I am still astonished this happened. I had to break off all contact.

The concert was a month away. I needed a new coach. Kemal Gekic to the rescue. Music department head at FIU. And the most skillful pianist in the world. Kemal is more talented than Lang Lang or Evgeny Kissin combined. He should be famous.

All of these hurdles and I still did it. I played my songs perfectly. I did not miss a note. And learned a great deal more about human nature.

Sorry this blog post is so long but I wanted to tell the entire sequence of events.

Short YouTube video -

The gifted writer, Lizzie Simon wrote a dazzling article in the Wall Street Journal if anyone is interested in reading more about the Carnegie Hall party and the unexpected visitor. - Click for article


Lora, wow. Just, wow. I really enjoyed reading this, and I am convinced it should be a chapter of your book. You would need to build it out with details--about 10-20 pages. This is priceless. I admire your determination in learning piano. I remember you mentioned this in Forum 4. Carol Dweck would be proud. You play beautifully. And the piano is absolutely gorgeous. Thanks for the Lizzie Simon piece. I can picture the whole thing. Of course the water had to gush at Carnegie. It wouldn't be NYC if Con Ed didn't show up. Thank you for this (truly remarkable) post. SM

- Says Sherry R Mason at Jul 19, 2016 6:41 AM



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