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A Salute to (My) Teachers

Ken Radnofsky
June 2012

Description  |  1. Introduction  |  2. Early Teachers  |  3. Teachers by Example  |  4. Conductors, Pianists, Composers and other related inspirations  |  5. Composers and Other Inspirations  |  6. Colleagues, Family and Friends, and mostly, just working hard  |  7. 'We get by with a little help from our friends' - thanks to The Beatles

1. Introduction (cont.)

I was born in a log cabin. No. I was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. My earliest memories are of music in the Temple that my parents built both physically and spiritually. My earliest memories are all musical ones--my mother playing the organ and my father as the volunteer cantor at Temple Shalom. My mother played well, my father, gave it his best effort, and what he lacked in pitch discrimination he made up in feeling! My Dad was a textile engineer who was recruited into the Space program (NASA) at its inception--we moved to Langley, Virginia and then on to the Houston area. I used to tell people we moved from Philadelphia to Seabrook, Texas so that I could get the best music education. Bands were big in Texas. I repeated beginner band for literally 3 years--I changed school districts one year and couldn't remember f-sharp, so was kept back! By 7th grade I had caught up, of sorts, and was fifth out of six saxophones (we all remained the same section for the next five years). I was allowed to 'challenge' to move up, and constantly tried, beating Darryl Malone (now a successful Houston attorney), who told my lawyer sister many years later, 'I let him win.' 2 weeks after that audition I moved back down to 5th, where I remained throughout high school. But, my joy was playing, and trying to improve, rather than 'winning.' I enjoyed competing with myself much more than against others, and found fulfillment in that, sooner than most, and which some musicians, and others, never realize. I remember how much I enjoyed 'summer band' as we practiced writing down rhythmic dictation, melodies, and the like. That m.o. has not changed a bit, with the added need to share gradually being added as I entered college.

I had a very able, demanding teacher in my last years of high school and then college, as I perceived it then and now; Jeff Lerner, who is/was a terrific teacher, but didn't say 'good job' (to my memory) after my many recitals in college. And I played many recitals, rather than a single one, as many students do/did; I realized the more I played, the better I would play and rather than make it all my 'magnum'-recital, it was important to practice performing, and communicating. And, if I was nervous (and I was VERY nervous); I had another friend who told me I would stop being nervous after the first 50 recitals, and I wanted to get those 50 out of the way as soon as possible. And after every recital, Jeff said 'congratulations, we'll talk about it at your next lesson.' Well, my ego took a bruising. In my own mind (and I thought, in his) I was never 'good enough,' and I always had to try harder. Teachers are so important; what they say and think is so important to us in the moment, in lifting us up, or causing us to persevere (or otherwise). And, while I've always felt that Jeff's approach wasn't exactly the way I could do it as a teacher; I am clearly guilty of speaking with great praise to and of, my students in excess (and in their presence), as a sort of 'proud parent,' just as my Dad proudly did. But, I respected Jeff, and still do. We are all different.