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Daphne and Sarah, Episode II: The Descendants (cont.)


**To read Daphne and Sarah, Episode I: The Descendants, click here.**

It was spring 2017 and plague had struck Chapel Hill. The unpredictable weather changes left people unsure of their wardrobe choices, their hearts weary, and their immune systems defeated.

Perhaps that’s a bit dramatic, but flu season has been especially rough this year. I had gotten sick during my spring break, and had to cancel lessons with Sarah after finding out I had walking pneumonia.

The following week I had begun to recover and was excited to work with Sarah once again, after all, it had been two weeks of missed lessons due to my pneumonia and spring break. I was also going to discuss making up a lesson with Joyce, Sarah’s mom. Just as I was about to text her, I heard from Joyce and I was saddened to hear that Sarah had gotten sick, too. I wished her a quick recovery and looked forward to the next week.


Monday, April 3rd. At long last, everyone seemed to be fully recovered, and we were ready to reconvene. The problem was, not only were Sarah and I feeling ready to take on the world, the UNC Men’s Basketball team was ready to win the national championship and, as a result, the town of Chapel Hill had essentially shut down. My heart sank a little when I discovered afternoon lessons were cancelled due to parking restrictions for the game – cars in the church parking lot would be towed. As much as I support my team, it made me sad that a basketball game on the other side of the country meant missing another opportunity to help Sarah grow as a young musician.

Another week later, and I finally got to work with smiling Sarah. After going so long without a lesson, she was eager to get back to the piano. We started, of course, with scales.

“Let’s start easy,” I said. From my own experience as a young student I know it can be very easy to forget things after a single missed lesson, and, even more so, three. “Let’s just start with C major.”

Sarah’s fingers flew across the keys perfectly – she was a pro at this.

I decided to make things a little more difficult. “Which scale comes next in the circle of fifths?”

“G,” Sarah replied, without skipping a beat, then proceeded to play a beautiful G major scale.

We continued exploring the circle of fifths until we finished E major, at which point I felt that Sarah deserved to work on something a little more exciting. Before our hiatus, Sarah had been working on “Fiesta España,” a charismatic piece with syncopated rhythms, which Sarah was conquering quite well. By this point however, with her sharp mind and ambitious character, I thought she’d like to learn a new piece. Just as I was about to search through her book, Sarah had already opened to a new page.

“I started learning a new song, if that’s ok,” Sarah told me.

“Of course that’s ok!” I replied. “Actually, that’s wonderful.”

I was elated; here I was expecting to have to reteach some old ideas, to be wonderfully surprised by how much dedication Sarah is showing to her instrument. This expectation is by no means a reflection on Sarah, but on myself as a young student. It is highly doubtful that I would have felt the inspiration to start teaching myself a new piece, without the instruction of my teacher. All on her own, Sarah was taking initiative to learn.

“Would you like to play it for me?” I asked her.

“Well, I have some questions first,” she replied, and pointed to the time signature. “What does that mean?”

I glanced at the page and half-winced seeing that it was in cut time. The difference between cut time and the more typical 4/4 (or common) time signature is somewhat nuanced and hard to understand, but I did my best to explain and Sarah seemed satisfied with my answer.

As Sarah began working on the right hand of the piece, charmingly renamed “Rage over a Lost Penny,” I realized that it was an adaptation of a Beethoven piece. I asked her why she chose this piece. She simply said it looked interesting to her, but I wondered if she picked a Beethoven piece because of our previous discussion about the two of us being his “teaching descendants.”

Our lesson came to a close and once again I felt my heart swell. Each week, Sarah never ceases to surprise me with her talent, ambition, and always-positive attitude. Each week, Sarah improves by leaps and bounds, becoming a more sophisticated young lady and musician. And, in turn, each week, my love for teaching music grows stronger. I could not be more proud to have such an inspirational student.


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