Sally, the Pian­ist

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - OBITUARIES - Ca­role Christ­man

Just re­cently, Sally An­der­son, joined our break­fast group. Sally told us, “I lived in Cal­i­for­nia for 28 years and moved back to Penn­syl­va­nia in 2015, be­cause I wanted to be closer to my daugh­ter and five grand­chil­dren. An­other daugh­ter moved with me and lives in the house too. Yet an­other daugh­ter is still in Cal­i­for­nia.”

We found out Sally was a pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian and still prac­ticed on her piano. Thus it was, af­ter one of our break­fast gath­er­ings, we drove to Sally’s house, in Mertz­town, to lis­ten to Sally play ren­di­tions of her fa­vorites.

As one of Sally’s au­di­ence, sit­ting in her din­ing area, I lis­tened as she first told us a brief his­tory of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin. She stated, “My goal is to play from mem­ory and not be dis­tracted by an au­di­ence nearby.”

Even though I have no ear for mu­sic, nor do I play an in­stru­ment, I thor­oughly en­joyed Sally’s per­for­mance. I was ex­tremely im­pressed by her hand move­ments as they glided so smoothly over the keys.

Af­ter the recital was com­plete, I asked Sally about the one move­ment of cross­ing her left hand over the right hand, yet still play­ing ex­pertly, She told me, “The cross­ing over of hands is very com­mon in piano mu­sic be­cause, as we have only 10 fin­gers and there are 88 keys, we can cover more ground, so to speak, by cross­ing over rather than leap­ing around. Most com­posers in­di­cate it in their mu­sic.”

I con­tin­ued ques­tion­ing her at what age in life she learned to love mu­sic and study it.

“I be­gan the study of piano at about 7, and, a few years later the vi­olin. I worked at both in­stru­ments, but al­ways loved piano the most. The vi­olin is use­ful for be­ing able to play in or­ches­tras and other en­sem­bles, which I did for many years. My par­ents were mu­si­cians and al­ways made sure I had good teach­ers. I am very grate­ful to them for that. I stud­ied piano and vi­olin at In­di­ana Univer­sity. Although I took a de­gree in French, I stud­ied mu­sic the en­tire time. I taught piano and vi­olin les­sons for about 20 years in Cal­i­for­nia.

How long does it take to learn a piece, like the Bach piece, that you played for us?

“I am a good sight reader (a busy ac­com­pa­nist for many years), but mem­o­riz­ing is a slow process for me. I have to play a com­po­si­tion at least 100 times to feel con­fi­dent that it’s mem­o­rized. And of course, the time to learn it in the first place! And then … if I don’t play it of­ten enough it’s no longer mem­o­rized! I re­cently made a list of all the pieces I want to keep in my reper­toire and vowed to play them once a week. On a daily ba­sis I am learn­ing new things and mem­o­riz­ing them. I prac­tice about 3 hours ev­ery day, but I can’t say I’m dis­ci­plined for that. It’s just what I al­ways want to do. Now that I’m re­tired, I have the lux­ury to do that. Fur­ther­more, I only work on the pieces that I love, not what some­one else needs me to learn. Such bliss!”

For the love of mu­sic, Sally con­tin­ues to play and her au­di­ence (the break­fast gang) will be there to lis­ten.

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