Magdalena was one of my first students after I moved to Hawaii. And she quickly became one of my favorites. A tiny little Eurasian girl with a quiet twinkle in her eyes, she was a model of politeness melded with eagerness. She wanted to learn.
She would climb onto the piano bench, carefully arrange her music on the music rack and open the exercise book in which I wrote her weekly lesson plans. She’d locate the correct date and then hand it to me. And we’d begin.
One day, the lesson included a study of the “accidentals” …. beginning with the sharps
” This is a SHARP,” I explained. ” You have to play the very next note above the written one. Which is a black one. An F# is that black one just above the regular F.” We played several F’s and then moved them up to F#’s. Then we added some of the other notes sharped correctly. I pointed out that B# had to become a C because there wasn’t an adjacent black note above it and C was the closest note above the B. That caused a little predictable distress. But Maggie seemed to understand the concept of the accidentals quite quickly.
When I was pretty sure she was comfortable with the new sharps, I chose a simple piece in A minor which contained only one sharped note. The G#. I carefully circled the sharp before each of the G notes to help her a bit. There were about ten of them in all.
“Now be very careful dear, and don’t forget the accidentals.” I warned her.
The next week she bounded into the studio, eager to show me how well she’d practiced the new assignment. She spread out the music, started in confidently and played the entire piece perfectly except for one detail …. every one of the sharps was missing!
“Maggie ….. where are all the sharps?” I asked.
She pointed to the music, where each one of my circled sharps had been carefully removed with a meticulous application of White Out. “Oh Miss, I thought you said they were accidents and I took them out ….”
When I stopped laughing, we put the sharps back in and she played the piece, slowly but correctly. As she finished she looked around at me and murmured ….” I thought it sounded kinda weird when I played it at home …”
♥ Warning to all teachers ….. Maybe renounce the linguistic flourish of the word “accidental” and just stick to the basics …. like “sharps” and “flats”.