When I was a little girl, there were not as many choices for things to participate in after school or during the summer as children have now. Of course to me, it seemed like I had many choices. Little girls could take ballet or tap, they could go to Girl Scouts or they could learn to play the piano. Sometimes little girls could do two of them but that is about all. There were no soccer teams or softball teams or volleyball teams. Girls were very limited in the sporting area. For example, if a girl played basketball in high school, she could only play half court. Girls did NOT run down the whole court. I know this is hard to imagine now.
I was able to take ballet and tap. I liked tap dancing the best. There was something about those taps on the bottom of your shoes that make you feel special! I only danced for two years before focusing on other things. I was in Girl Scouts all the way through high school. But I will save that for another time. I want to talk about playing the piano now. I was I kindergarten when my mother started looking for a teacher for me. Not everyone would take a six year old. Many teachers had waiting lists. The woman my mother wanted me to go to was filled but suggested one of her former students who has just come home from college and was going to teach high school and piano after work in her home. My mom was really tickled and signed me up.
I can remember how nervous and excited I was that first day! My mom came in with me to meet my new teacher. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She had a smile that made me feel welcome and calm. I wanted to be the best student she had ever taught. When I practiced at home that week, I know I drove my family crazy because I even gave up reading time to practice. When I went to my second lesson, I was a little early and I waited in her dining room where I noticed this kind of piano that I had never seen before. She saw me looking at it and told me it was a pump organ that had belonged to her grandmother. She showed me how it worked and let me give it a try. It was a challenge to be able to play and pump the pedals at the same time to produce the sound! I loved it. You also have to touch the keys differently than a piano. I wanted one of my own! Every other week we would spend a little time with the pump organ after my regular piano lesson. Then she surprised me with a piece of sheet music-Ave Maria-which I learned to play on the organ. At my first recital, I played a piece on the piano AND I played a piece on the pump organ. My teacher never realized that she had started me on a musical journey that would last my whole life. I still play the piano 60 years later.
My teacher’s name was Nancy Ellen J. In Hebrew, the name Nancy means full of Grace. That certainly described my teacher. Ellen means the shining one. I adored her name and felt she had made such an impact on my life that when my parents were expecting a new baby that I talked constantly about how nice it would be to grace a new baby girl with a beautiful name. When my beautiful red-headed sister was born later that year, they graced her with a beautiful name-Nancy Ellen. And sis-that is where your name came from! A beautiful name for a beautiful woman!