Brio, frisky in music or maybe lively? All my Italian I learned playing the piano, but brio always meant lively and energetic to Mrs. Nelson and she was my forever piano teacher.
She helped me love music beyond my capabilities. She believed in me with a wholeheartedness no one else ever did. She was always sure I could do it, even when it was obvious I could play it, but I would never play it well.
No one else ever believed in me like she did. She was sure I could be great. The truth was, I could be good, but not great. Unless I wanted to work terribly hard to be a lounge performer, great was beyond my grasp.
Nonetheless, I so much wanted to not disappoint her that she attaboyed me right into a university music major in college. She was sure I could be The One.
As the years marched on, I enjoyed studying music, but I was never fully immersed in it. I remember the day I had a long, kindly conversation with one of my professors. He was a great guy, one of the two men who invented the Moog synthesizer (that’s a “by the way”) – Dr. Herb Deutsch. He also wrote a special piece for Owen when he was born.
He sat me down under a tree on the main quad and he said: “You can’t do this because you want to make your piano teacher happy, you know.”
How did he know that? Maybe I wasn’t the only one? “You have to want it, need it, not be able to live without it. You’re doing well. You pass everything. But I don’t think your heart is in it. Music is an all or nothing engagement. Either get fully into it, or find out where your really want to go.”
He was right.
I hated that he was right. I loved that he was right.
I never stopped loving music, but I changed to a Social Science major where a lot of writing was part of the job. Had the college been more flexible, I would probably have gone on for a masters or more and possible stayed academic. It was too early for that degree of collegiate flexibility. Flexibility would arrive ten years later, long after I had graduated.
But in the meantime, a huge thanks to Mrs. Nelson and Dr. Herb Deutsch who pushed me until I became what I needed to be.
I hope every kid finds a couple of teachers who know just how and when to give them the attaboy they need … and a pushy little brio to help them step lively into the world.