Robby’s Paino Lesson

I read this story today morning. My dearest friend Dola had sent it.
It touched me in a very deep place.
Just sharing. I think it will speak to many of you.

Robby’s Piano Lesson

At the prodding of my friends I am writing this
story. My name is Mildred Honor and I am a former elementary school
music teacher from Des Moines , Iowa .

I have always supplemented my income by teaching
piano lessons – something I have done for over 30 years.

During those years I found that children have many
levels of musical ability, and even though I have never had the
pleasure of having a prodigy, I have taught some very talented

However, I have also had my share of what I call
‘musically challenged’ pupils – one such pupil being Robby..

Robby was 11 years old when his mother (a single mom)
dropped him off for his first piano lesson. I prefer that students
(especially boys) begin at an earlier age, which I explained to
Robby. But Robby said that it had always been his mother’s dream to
hear him play the piano, so I took him as a student.

Well, Robby began his piano lessons and from the
beginning I thought it was a hopeless endeavor. As much as Robby
tried, he lacked the sense of tone and basic rhythm needed to excel.
But he dutifully reviewed his scales and some elementary piano pieces
that I require all my students to learn. Over the months he tried
and tried while I listened and cringed and tried to encourage him.

At the end of each weekly lesson he would always say
‘My mom’s going to hear me play someday’. But to me, it seemed
hopeless, he just did not have any inborn ability.

I only knew his mother from a distance as she dropped
Robby off or waited in her aged car to pick him up. She always waved
and smiled, but never dropped in.

Then one day Robby stopped coming for his lessons. I
thought about calling him, but assumed that because of his lack of
ability he had decided to pursue something else. I was also glad that
he had stopped coming – he was a bad advertisement for my teaching!

Several weeks later I mailed a flyer recital to the
students’ homes. To my surprise, Robby (who had received a flyer)
asked me if he could be in the recital. I told him that the recital
was for current pupils and that because he had dropped out, he really
did not qualify.

He told me that his mother had been sick and unable
to take him to his piano lessons, but that he had been practicing.
‘Please Miss Honor, I’ve just got to play’ he insisted. I don’t know
what led me to allow him to play in the recital – perhaps it was his
insistence or maybe something inside of me saying that it would be
all right.

The night of the recital came and the high school
gymnasium was packed with parents, relatives and friends. I put Robby
last in the program, just before I was to come up and thank all the
students and play a finishing piece. I thought that any damage he
might do would come at the end of the program and I could always
salvage his poor performance through my ‘curtain closer’.

Well, the recital went off without a hitch, the
students had been practicing and it showed. Then Robby came up on the
stage. His clothes were wrinkled and his hair looked as though he had
run an egg beater through it. ‘Why wasn’t he dressed up like the
other students?’ I thought. ‘Why didn’t his mother at least make him
comb his hair for this special night?’

Robby pulled out the piano bench, and I was surprised
when he announced that he had chosen to play Mozart’s Concerto No..21
in C Major. I was not prepared for what I heard next. His fingers
were light on the keys, they even danced nimbly on the ivories. He
went from pianissimo to fortissimo, from allegro to virtuoso; his
suspendedchords that Mozart demands were magnificent!

Never had I heard Mozart played so well by anyone his

After six and a half minutes he ended in a grand
crescendo, and everyone was on their feet in wild applause! Overcome
and in tears, I ran up onstage and put my arms
around Robby in joy. ‘I have never heard you play
like that Robby, how did you do it?

Through the microphone Robby explained: ‘Well,
Miss Honor ….. remember I told you that my mom was sick? Well, she
actually had cancer and passed away this morning. And well …… she
was born deaf, so tonight was the first time she had ever heard me
play, and I wanted to make it special.’

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house that evening. As
the people from Social Services led Robby from the stage to be placed
in to foster care, I noticed that even their eyes were red and puffy.
I thought to myself then how much richer my life had been for taking
Robby as my pupil.

No, I have never had a prodigy, but that night I
became a prodigy …….. of Robby. He was the teacher and I was the
pupil, for he had taught me the meaning of perseverance and love and
believing in yourself, and may be even taking a chance on someone and
you didn’t know why.

Robby was killed years later in the senseless bombing
of the Alfred P. Murray FederalBuilding in Oklahoma City in April,


What can one say after this?

I wept freely.
At the incredible grandeur of life.
As I connected with the Robby inside me. And Miss Honor and Robby’s mom.
All parts of me.
The sweetness of pain. Love’s confusing joy.
And the grace in it all.

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