Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Music lessons

Piano lessons began for me at the age of seven, before I had interest in playing an instrument.   The lessons were initiated by older relatives who loved classical music, insisted that children be taught piano, and offered to teach piano at no cost.

I did learn to read music, but I did not learn to love the piano or play it well. I spent more energy resisting and complaining about the enforced piano lessons than I did practicing.

Read my March column about music lessons: Music lessons finally took hold.

You will learn that I did become a musician, but not with the piano.  I'll be performing at the New England Folk Festival on Saturday, April 24, 2010. 3:00 pm with the band Panharmonium.  See NEFFA Festival webpage for more information.

Perhaps an earlier musical influence --before piano lessons-- was accompanying my parents to square dances where live bands played.  Instead of leaving us home with a babysitter, they brought us along.  We played around the edges with other children too young to join the squares.  Thus we were exposed early to lively musicians.  The Joe Perkins Orchestra was a favorite.   This photo shows musicians my parents knew well (Dick Best on guitar, Walter Lob on fiddle, Jed Prouty on piano, and Joe Perkins, caller).  [I don't know where this was taken; if anyone can identify it, please let me know. The photographer was John Nutter, 1940s.]

Some of the dancing and live music happened in the cellar of our tiny house in Danvers.  John Nutter gave me (in 1996, before he died) these old photos showing my parents and friends dancing there in the 1940s.
John labelled these photos "Square Dancing at Nick & Cut's after Skiing."
On right, above, my father Nick Nichols.
Approaching him from left is my mother, Janet Cutler ("Cut") Nichols.

I am amazed at these photos, never realizing that square dancing could fit it in our tiny basement, which was normally filled with a ping-pong table.   My parents not only played ping-pong, but also used the table for dinner parties.   In this case, it's another after-ski party, also in 1940s.
My mother stands at back; my father is at the back left.

We didn't have a dining room, or even much of a kitchen table, in that small house, shown here in a typical winter scene.  John "Ace" Nutter's woody wagon is parked in front, on Nichols Street.


zjemi said...

Thank you, Sandy. These reminiscences are fun to read. I too resisted piano lessons and often regret that I had a stronger will than my mother and that I won the battle and stopped taking lessons.

Dinah said...

Wonderful remembrances, Sandy! And I love seeing the photos of your folks and their friends, having a rockin' good time in the tiny basement. Is it any wonder you and YOUR husband dance in community and play in a band?

I went on to read your next piece, and I was so charmed and delighted to read about your concert for the cows! Maybe I would have stuck with MY piano lessons longer than 3 years, if I'd had some cows to play to. (Of course, living in NYC, there was not a cow to be found...).

Thanks, Sandy!

Katley said...

Sandy, thanks so much for sharing your experiences growing up. I had formal music lessons for two years in junior high and sometimes regretted not pursuing this further.

Chad said...


Sadly after piano lessons at Pine Knoll I too strayed.

What I most remember is how kind you and Jean were to me on the bus for my first day of school.

Chad D.