The Not-Eleven Memoir: The Star!

This post should be about age eleven, but I’m breaking the rules of the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge. It turns out that the year after I turned ten (it’s my eleventh year, after all, so maybe that counts for something) was a big one in terms of memorable events. The ice storm. My grandfather’s death. But it was also the solo recital year, and I have to write about that.

First, a little music history: I had started piano lessons the summer before I turned six with a college student who had allowed me to “play by the numbers.” When my real teacher, Miss Vera, took me on in the fall, I didn’t know one note from another, so she started over. If you’ve been reading these posts, you know about the piano Santa brought. Daddy played some by ear, and I was picking out tunes before I started lessons. In that house, we loved music! There were the radio shows my parents listened to, but they didn’t own a record player until later. By the time I was seven or eight, I did. Among my favorite records–all 78s–were Peter and the Wolf and Rusty in Orchestraville (a narrative that introduced all the instruments of the orchestra). There were others, I’m sure. I took to the piano and I had a good ear, which helps account for “learning ” music without being able to read it.

The first recital dress my mother made

But I progressed. For my very first piano recital, my mother made a dress: pale blue organdy with triangles of ruffles on the skirt and a band of ruffles across the shoulders. At the point of each of those ruffled inserts on the skirt was a rosette of tiny organdy rosebuds tied with narrow satin ribbon, like nosegays, all made by hand. I remember watching Mother make them; those rosebuds involved a tedious process of rolling the edges of the fabric between her fingers. What a labor of love that dress was, and how I wish she hadn’t let someone borrow it! We never got it back.

The ruffles around the neck are obvious in the photo, and if you look carefully, you can see the top of the ruffles on the skirt.

Solo recital

When I was ten (going on eleven by a few days), I gave a solo recital. That’s right. All by myself. An older boy played a duet with me (a boy who was teased unmercifully for his talent and his “sissy” ways), and Miss Vera herself played second piano on a rousing arrangement of “Turkey in the Straw.” I was a hit, and I would continue piano lessons through the ninth grade. This recital dress was pale pink, by the way. And those are tiny artificial flowers sewn on by hand. My mother didn’t consider herself to be creative, but I believe she was an artist.

What music do you remember? Did you learn to play an instrument? Did you love it or hate it?

15 thoughts on “The Not-Eleven Memoir: The Star!

    • Oh, I love the cello! Maybe you could take it up again sometime, Lori. It’s not too late! As for being a star–I never really felt that way. I felt special, no doubt, but along with that came a lot of expectations.


  1. This is my biggest regret growing up, that I never learned anything beyond the recorder. I can’t read music anymore. Although I own a guitar, I can’t play a lick. i stared to learn about eleven years ago, but then 9/11 happened and spent most of that year deployed to various locations around the globe. I am getting a second chance now with my youngest daughter, she is taking piano lessons from a wonderful instructor who just finished her PhD in music teaching, specializing in classical piano. Erin is a natural. She has learned a great deal in a very short time and loves to play and sing. I am encouraging her as much as possible to stay with it.

    Those dresses are beautiful BTW. =)


    • I’m so glad your daughter loves music! You can enjoy the music through her, but it’s never too late to learn, Todd! You might try again with those lessons.


  2. We children also had the record set: Rusty in Orchestraville. I still have the album! We may also have had Peter and the Wolf. It seems familiar – I see a picture in my mind of the cover. I believe my father (the musical parent) bought them for us in an effort to instill some music appreciation. Rusty in Orchestraville was a wonderful introduction to the different instruments, and has helped me understand and appreciate orchestral music to this day. Piano lessons only lasted about three years, and singing (in college) just one – there were so many other things I HAD to do, that music became relegated to appreciation.


    • I still have the Rusty set, too! I’m not sure why . . . Just for nostalgia’s sake, I suppose. I so believe in music and art for children for appreciation’s sake.


  3. Your pictures, and your dresses, are beautiful! 🙂 I never took piano lessons – or any kind of music lessons for that matter, although I did play the clarinet in the elementary school band for one year. My sister’s mother-in-law had a piano and her kids and I learned to play Heart and Soul on it. That was the extent of my piano virtuoso-ness, lol. When I was living with my other sister with my own kids, I took the instruction books from her kid’s lessons and learned to play a little bit.
    I saw to it that my daughter, Katie, took piano lessons though. I don’t think she liked them very much 🙂


    • Susan, as I just told Joy in a comment, I think everybody should have music lessons at some point. Ah, Heart and Soul! Yes, I do remember that one. It’s fun to do that with the grandchildren now. I can still impress with my improvs!


  4. Gorgeous dress! I took piano lessons from age 6 through 8th grade, but was never particularly good at it. I enjoyed singing more and I have to admit the piano lessons made me a better singer.


    • I think everybody should have basic music lessons! I started at six and burned out by the time I was fifteen, but I don’t think you ever lose the technique or the ability to read music totally. It’s a lifetime skill.


  5. What beautiful dresses!
    Do you still play piano?
    At various times in my childhood, I took piano, vocal, violin, guitar, snare drum, tambourine, and bongo drum lessons. I never practiced the way I should have though.


    • I do still play, but I’m pretty rusty. You’ve played a *lot* of things! I have a dulcimer that’s just waiting for me to tackle it. I hated practicing, too. There’ll be more about the music later on. Thanks!


  6. Those photos are precious! Music was never a big part of my life growing up, but for my husband it was. He was wonderful memories of taking lessons and performing and I think he misses it.


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