Can you imagine life without access to music? Although I prefer quiet much of the time, it would be sad if I could not have music at the click of a knob whenever I wanted it.
For Isaac Werner and others on the prairie, music was very important. Certain neighbors were known to have fine voices, and Isaac mentioned programs arranged just to hear them sing. One neighbor gave singing lessons in the winter when people weren't busy in their fields. Isaac also mentioned an evening of music when he stopped by one evening to visit a friend. Today, we forget how much we enjoy music on our command--at home, in the car, piped onto some streets, in restaurants and stores.
Although piano lessons may be less common today than they once were, boys and girls still do take piano lessons. My first piano teacher was Mrs. Fisk in Byers. Once a week, after school, I would crawl through a fence to cut across a lot on my walk to her house. I worked my way through "JohnThompson's Modern Course for the Piano," supplemented by songs from the Methodist hymnal.
When I went to Macksville to attend high school, my mother decided I should change piano teachers, and she enrolled me with a lady in St. John named Melba Budge. I had never been fond of practicing, and once I was in high school, trying to fit the appropriate hours of practice into my many activities became nearly impossible. More than once, I am ashamed to admit, the first time I played my assigned music was in front of my teacher at the following week's lesson. My teacher thought I was dreadful, but had she known, she might have been impressed by how well I sight-read when playing a piece for the very first time! I don't know if Mrs. Budge asked my mother to end my lessons, but I did not take lessons from her very long. I do remember being given a very simple piece to play for the annual recital of her students. I believe she thought I was unable to play anything more difficult, having only seen me play pieces I had made no effort to practice. It was very embarrassing to be a high school girl playing a piece beginners could play. Maybe she thought a good embarrassment was exactly what I deserved!
In reading through one of the local centennial books I acquired to use as a research source for writing Isaac's story, I found a brief biography of Malba Cornwell Budge. I learned that her college years were spent at a Conservatory of Music in Nashville, Tennessee and the Institute of Applied Music in New York City. While there she was a scholarship pupil of a famous piano teacher who was also the head of piano at Vassar.
The article in the centennial book describes Melba's professional positions and certifications as a Piano teacher and her role as a judge in piano competitions throughout America. It described Doc's responsible positions in the community and his outstanding art collection. The article made me blush as I read it, remembering how my disinterested lack of effort as a piano student showed such inexcusable disrespect for my gifted teacher.
As lazy as I was in learning how to play the piano, my poor skill has provided me much pleasure all of my life, and I thank Mrs. Fisk and Mrs. Budge for teaching me as much as the did.