First Lessons

I started playing piano the way many people do – My parents forced me to.

September 1970 – First Lessons

My first piano lesson was the first Tuesday in September, 1970 – the year I started third grade.  My teacher – Jean Gestwick, a “tough as nails” little German woman long on talent and short on tolerance for lazy little boys.

I remember my parents were looking for a teacher for me and found one through the old Buffalo Music Center on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, that happened to live on our block on the same side of the street, so I could walk to my lesson.

That first day I walked down the street – we lived on Chadduck Avenue in Buffalo – and rang the doorbell on the side door of her house.  I heard “..COME DOWN THE BASEMENT…” from inside, “… AND TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES!!…”

So… with that welcome, I went inside, took off my shoes and proceeded down the basement stairs of the the little black and white house.  Once at the bottom of the stairs I saw Mrs. Gestwick sitting in a chair in the far right corner listening to a young man play through his lesson.  She motioned me to a folding table  to the left of the stairs that was covered in comic books.  I took that as an invitation to read while I waited.  I hung my jacket on the back of one of the 4 chairs at the table and picked up an issue of “Turok: Son of Stone” to read through while I waited.

The student that was having his lesson when I got there played really well and I remember thinking to myself “…this is going to be great – I’m going to play just like that guy!…”.

I found out “that guy” that was playing when I got there was Michael DiAngelo and he was, indeed, an excellent piano player.  I think he was 14 years old that first day and was playing through a very impressive piece of music by some classical composer that even my untrained ears could tell was quite a challenge.

When Michael’s lesson was over I was motioned to the piano and learned about middle C, Every Good Boy Does Fine, F-A-C-E, Great Big Dogs Fight Always and the fact that All Cows Eat Grass.

From there is was the C scale and the first 2 songs in the Michael Aaron first grade book.

I was beyond fired up.  I walked home in the crisp September air and knew that it would only be a short time until I could play like that Michael DiAngelo.

And then my 8 year old self got a healthy dose of reality….