As a means of expressing my gratitude and joy that THE BETTER SIDE WON, in spite of Citizens United et al, I wanted to post an update. I thought I owed this to the universe, after all my negative diaries.
I had pretty much given up on piano teaching and was considering jobs that provide health insurance: driving a school bus, serving coffee (Starbucks has pretty good benefits) and various others.
I will let my students express what a musical education means to them, and why private music instruction should not be allowed to die, or relegated to the hobbyist:
Here is an essay one of my students wrote just before I got too sick to teach:
"Wednesdays with Kareylou"***********************
I have never been very outspoken. I love to talk, don't get me wrong, but I am not obvious about it. I could talk for hours if you take the chance on me, but few ever do. If you put me into a room with thirty different people, I will never be the one to speak first.
Playing piano was a big change. I learned how to play at an early age, and haven't stopped since. My teacher taught me how to play piano differently. She taught me to hear the sounds inside of me, and then play them back how I heard them. It was confusing back then, to understand exactly what she meant. When I played the music back it sounded exactly like I had heard, but my teacher would always say, listen and try again.
My teacher began to talk about how music was intertwined into our everyday lives. The obvious example is the radio. Everyone listens to the radio. She disagreed, saying there was much more and that I had to look deeper, listen harder to the music around me.
So the majority of my life has been spent listening. It started off as just listening to music. Soon enough, everything was music. Listening to good and bad, listening to happy and sad, listening to others, listening to the sounds around me, and listening to nothing. It was as if there was this huge song being played around me, and I could hear every sound inside of me.
After that I began to realize what exactly my teacher was talking about. I listened to people speak in the same way that I listened to the strings of a piano. I can identify different emotions within a conversation as easily as I identify the notes to a song.
Over time I have listened to hundreds of different things, things, both in song and conversation, and for the first time since I can remember I want to be the one to talk.
Through music I have found my identity. I know what I love to do, and others understand it when they hear it. I used to think there was only one type of music, but now I can hear it everywhere. My teacher taught me how to listen, and music taught me how to speak.
When I was too sick to teach last year, for about six weeks, some of the teenagers got together and composed and recorded a song that really helped get me back on my feet:
I always ask one of my students to compose a quote for our recital program. Here is the latest one:
It's difficult. It's not always going to make you happy,
and sometimes you will want to quit.
It's time consuming. How much time you spend on it determines
how well it will turn out.
It's real. So real that at times it seems like a dream
that you never want to wake up from.
It's universal. No one is excluded, and everyone can relate to it.
It's changeable, and it always wants to change.
You can never hear the same thing twice.
It's influential. It can move people, fill them with hope,
or shed light on something forgotten.
It's worth it. I've never once regretted it, even when I thought it had failed me.
Last year, I had the most rewarding moment of my teaching career to date when a girl named Luisa played her last recital with me. Her father stood up in front of the audience to speak. He is an immigrant from Mexico and he and his wife brought their daughter to me when she was only four. We stuck together through thick and thin, through his unemployment and my illness, I taught her when they didn't have money and they brought me food and shoveled my walk when I was too sick to cook or shovel, and now we have sent Luisa off to NYU on scholarship for Music Composition. He eventually sat down because he couldn't get the words out. I couldn't have spoken either. These are the kinds of relationships I have been privileged to enjoy.
Now that I know the ACA is not going to be repealed, I can go back to private teaching, and purchase health insurance from an exchange. My students and I thank everyone who worked so hard to help make this happen. I know it is not perfect, but we won't stop until everyone can pursue their dreams. Health care should not be tied to marriage or employment, and we have taken one step further toward that destination.