The Influence

Please find below and Essay written this fall by the student of the B-Sharp Piano Studio with the note attached:

“Please remember you are a greater influence than you think”  J.K.

Common Application

Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

I sat at the piano, swinging my legs back and forth and scuffing my feet along the floor. I stared at the black and white keys in front of me, watching as they blurred and refocused before my eyes.  My piano teacher was saying something, but I wasn’t listening.  I had grown disinterested and dispassionate. My piano teacher no longer seemed to hold any secrets for me to learn, and the magical patterns of trebles and clefs seemed lifeless and dull.

My teacher had noticed my malaise and, unbeknownst to me, had recommended that I begin lessons with a colleague of hers, a woman who might reengage my passion for the piano. As I approached the new teacher’s studio door for the first time, I felt apprehensive and discouraged. The lessons which had once been a source of wonder were now little more than a chore; what if this new teacher made no difference? Would I simply trudge through lesson after lesson, hating every moment of it? Or would I abandon nearly a year of hard work?

When I finally entered Ms. Elizabeth Smolgovsky’s studio, I had nearly talked myself into simply giving up the piano. It would be an incredible waste of time for me to continue lessons on an instrument that no longer appealed to me, I reasoned. I was prepared to tell the new teacher this, but she never gave me the chance. Instead, she welcomed me warmly and sat me down at the piano. Within moments, I had remembered why I had begged for lessons all those years ago. An indefinable “something” in Ms. Elizabeth’s personality made her passion and interest infectious – no one could watch her at the keys without being drawn to the piano.

My lessons were no longer focused on the staid and dry tasks involved with earning each year’s Certificate of Merit. While we did study the theory necessary to earn the annual Certificate, we spent a greater portion of our time learning those things which I wanted to learn. If I declared an interest in learning to play “Imagine” by John Lennon, Ms. Elizabeth magically produced the necessary sheet music. With seemingly little effort, Ms. Elizabeth had reignited my zeal for music, giving me back a piece of myself. For the first time in months, I felt whole again.

My time at the piano had been beautiful, exciting, and challenging.  For nearly a decade I had attended weekly piano lessons, steadily improving my skills and enjoying each and every new task.  With time, Ms. Elizabeth became far more than a mere piano teacher – she also became my closest confidant and advisor. Here was a person who could understand me, someone who would listen to my problems without rancor and offer sensible advice without condescension.

When my little brother developed the new habit of irritating me whenever I would practice piano, it was Ms. Elizabeth who came to my rescue. Each day, as I sat at the keys practicing my latest lessons, my brother would casually wander into the room. He would meander past me to plop down on the sofa next to the piano, displaying a feigned air of indifference. Carefully avoiding eye contact, he would creep his hand closer and closer to the piano, finally plucking those keys nearest to him and breaking what remained of my concentration. When I complained of his behavior to Ms. Elizabeth, she did not break into the angry tirade that I had expected. I had hoped that she would display a righteous fury on my behalf, railing against the impudent boy who prevented her dear pupil from practicing. Instead, she smiled. “Did you ever stop to think that perhaps he might be jealous?” she asked. I opened my mouth to argue, but she continued, “Isn’t it possible that your brother is also interested in music and would like to learn to play an instrument like you have?”

I pondered this thought for the rest of the lesson. It had never occurred to me that there might be an underlying motive for my brother’s obvious attempts to sabotage my musical skills. As it turned out, Ms. Elizabeth was correct: Shortly after this, my parents offered my brother music lessons, and he has been playing the cello ever since. Thanks to Ms. Elizabeth’s intuition, we have another musician in the family. But Ms. Elizabeth’s advice did not merely help my brother to discover his musical abilities – she also helped me to see the value of compassion and empathy. I learned that day that I might be able to help others by placing myself in their shoes, a lesson which has served me well in the years since.

Yet Ms. Elizabeth’s innate understanding still never fails to amaze me. When I vented to her about a family argument that had been causing me a great deal of stress, she was the one person able to comfort me. She shared a story of her own similar experiences, and helped me to see that I could help my family regain their equilibrium by being more patient and understanding while they worked out their differences. As always, I took Ms. Elizabeth’s sage advice without regrets.

I will greatly miss my beloved teacher, but it is not her piano lessons that I will miss most. With each lesson, I learned new songs and musical skills, but I also learned to be a more understanding and compassionate person. Ms. Elizabeth has given me the tools to help not only myself, but also those around me. I look forward to engaging these skills in the future, and I know that Ms. Elizabeth’s lessons will serve me well.