Submitted by Mary Tickner

August exams are over and  it’s time to take a break from our usual summer routine: sleep in, go to the beach and just do nothing….except to prepare the next year’s teaching schedule, contact and confirm returning students, prepare the numerous festival dates, the in-studio playing sessions, locate the piano technician to  prepare the pianos, arrange the Cd’s in a logical order, plus checking to see if all music loaned out has been returned (we hope!) and the countless parental and student phone calls and e-mails with “special” requests and/or circumstances, etc… .  It is at that point that you really would like to have a few weeks to just have time to rest and think.

Be careful: you may get your wish, as I did, but not as I planned.  As some of you know, on March 8, I suffered a fairly serious fall on our home’s stairwell which necessitated a 6-week stay at VGH recuperating from the results of my backwards fall down 14 steps (broken fingers and wrist of RH, fractured facial bones and total loss of vision in my right eye).  After a few weeks, I began to consider my future options and decided to continue to teach and focus on using my time in the hospital to evaluate past projects and try to develop some new or more effective means of achieving better results.  I was greatly encouraged by the care given to me at the hospital plus the numerous cards, flowers and visitors (friends, students).  But also, I was given 2 very small, wonderful books by Dr. Gordon Livingston: ‘”TOO SOON OLD, TOO LATE SMART”(Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now”), and “AND NEVER STOP DANCING” (Thirty more True Things You Need to Know Now”).


My favorite chapter was 24, entitled “The major advantage of illness is that it provides relief from responsibility” (from the first book).  Now that I am home and have been teaching since May, I have had the chance to  go over some past years’ activities and realize that I need to have some New Year’s resolutions to “never stop dancing”, such as:

  • create a calendar that will list festivals and dates, group playing sessions, make-up week’s special concerts
  • a newsletter to bring information about student activities, musical as well other achievements
  •  motivational activities to encourage consistent daily practicing
  • prepare a written evaluation at the end of the year for parents
  • expand studio policy to include and clarify attendance, makeup policy, payment policy, termination policy, practicing
  • hours for phone calls
  • e-mail and texting
  • performance and examination policies
  • scholarships, and coaching
  • special group classes (sight-reading, ear-training, technique)

As for my pianistic progress, I can proudly report that I can actually play octave scales with the RH and have worked my way through Hanon playing – two different keys simultaneously!  This has aroused several students to try it themselves; however, my tempo is leisurely!

Learning to live with one eye only has definitely slowed down my walking, but as one doctor said: “It could have been worse”.  That keeps my spirits up!

I am finishing this forum with a quote I found in my late mother-in-law’s notebook.  She was a musician and also a beautiful woman.  I think it says what teaching is all about:

“Use the talent you possess for the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best.”
Charlene Tickner