I report to Dr. X’s (the Music Department Chair) office twice per week, per his prescription, for unsolicited private instruction in Theory, Sight-Singing and Functional Piano.
Whereas in functional piano class, I previously played familiar songs, I now play an insignificant series of chord progressions in various keys and positions. I’m suddenly expected to play all my theory compositions on the piano, rather than using the 3D bulletin board I had adopted during the two prior semesters. I understand how this new approach might increase my overall musicianship…but wouldn’t it have been more positively impactful to have started me out that way, rather than waiting until now to change the entire pedagogical approach?
More than once during my lessons, he tells me: “We all wish you didn’t have this problem, but you do…and I’m not being paid extra to work with you.”
I report to a particular room for a “pre jury hearing” (mid-term equivalent), where I am to play for my former instructors. My heart is pounding in my ears, and my palms are damp.
For the past several weeks, each time I’ve sat down to practice, all I can hear are his words in my head…So much for my dedication and desire to practice!
I begin to play, a little nervous, but I’m okay. Suddenly, I blank. I have no idea where I am in the progression. I stop momentarily, trying desperately to regain my place.
The silence, and tension, grow.
“I think it’s obvious she hasn’t practiced and her work is not up to parr,” proclaims Dr. X. “Any comments?” he asks of my former instructors. They shake their heads.
“Do you have any comments?” he asks me.
“No…But I promise I’ve done my best to practice every day.”
My tears start to flow uncontrollably. The more I try to maintain composure, the harder and faster they flow. My functional piano teacher sympathetically offers me much-needed and appreciated tissues.
I feel humiliated. If I were more collected, I swear I would just get up and walk out…telling Dr. X to take his piano, and his class and shove ‘em…
The next day, my former theory professor greets me in the hall. Ashamed, I apologize to him for “losing it” in front of them.
“No need to apologize. We all felt sorry for you. I don’t know what his problem is…but he’s been on the rag all semester. He had no right to take it out on you.”
In a month, my performance is re-evaluated.
“I believe it’s safe to say that her performance has improved somewhat,” decrees Dr. X. “If she chooses to remain a music major, I’ll give her an incomplete, and she’ll have to repeat the semester. If she decides to change her major, I’ll give her a ‘D’ to get rid of her.”
Three months after turning twenty, and completely burned out, I graduate with a BA in Foreign Language, and a minor in Marketing.
Guide dog?…Not a chance!
*AUTHOR’S NOTE: The experience recorded above with Dr. X was devastating, to say the least. However, I believe I owe it to those who are reading this to let you know…I learned some years later, that Dr. X had been removed from his position as Department Chair a couple of years after I left. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s…which explains a lot!
In retrospect, I feel certain the real Dr. X was the warm thoughtful man with whom I met initially. Sadly, it appears that his disease had already begun to take hold just a year later. I personally believe that it was the disease- not the man- who pulled me from my classes and treated me so unfairly.
To be continued…
Copyright (C) 2014 Donna Anderson. All rights reserved.