I am not a Facebook apologist.
I frequently am frustrated with it, check it mostly to delete invitations to parties from friends I’ve not seen in 12 years and who live halfway across the country and to block applications from sending me junk mail. No, I don’t want to play Mafia Farm Pets with you. Sorry. But even I have to admit there are some things that Facebook does well – amazingly well, in fact.
Here, have a cookie and some tea, and let me tell you a story.
When I was a little bitty girl, about 6 years old, my parents “inherited” a piano from my grandparents, who had found it in the basement of one of my grandfather’s churches.
It wasn’t a new piano – in fact, it was a pretty old piano. But it was in good shape, and I wanted lessons, and they needed a tuner. Through some happenstance of fate, the newspaper, a phonebook, and who knows what else (the internet didn’t really exist back then, and we didn’t have a computer anyway), they found a young man who was studying piano performance at … some university nearby, and his father happened to be a piano tuner.
I don’t really remember his father (other than a few mental images of him waist-deep in our piano), but Misha (the late-teenaged kid) came to our house once a week or so for the next 4(ish) years, to give me piano lessons.
He was, by all accounts, a superb teacher.
I remember never feeling like he was talking down to me, and that he had me start composing music from the very first time I sat down at the piano (I still have some of those compositions? and to be quite honest, they’re better than some of the stuff I did in Music Theory I in college). I was too short to reach the pedals, so I played sitting on an old wooden chair with two phonebooks and an encyclopedia set on top. In the winter, he’d come in from the cold, and banish me to the kitchen to run my hands under hot water from the sink until they were warm enough to play. While he waited, he would improvise on various jazz tunes and whatever else popped into his head. I don’t know if I ever heard him play “classical” music other than what I was learning.
Thinking back, I probably did, but it was the jazz I remembered.
Around the time I was 10 or so, I decided I wanted to play the clarinet in the band at school, and was asked to choose between clarinet and piano for lessons. I chose clarinet. Then we moved to Texas, where I continued to play woodwinds, but still tinkering on the piano until High School, where I played in the Jazz Band. I wasn’t the best pianist, but I had fun, and I loved the music.
Every now and again I’d wonder how things had gone for him, considering that he’d been a pretty amazing musician and was playing in clubs even back then. But Misha’s last name was, to a 6 year old, nearly unpronounceable thanks to the haze of fuzzy memories, and as such, I could barely remember it properly, let alone figure out how to spell it. I tried a few times to see if I could find him, but Google wasn’t that good, and… well, I was guessing wildly at a Russian last name.
Fast forward to this weekend, visiting my parents for my mom’s birthday.
Mom has a huge old box of music, inherited along with the piano, and in it are the books I used learning as a little kid. I went through them, having a happy walk down memory lane at the sight of songs like Grasshoppers Jumping and 10 Little Indians. I got to the end, and there in the back, on my little “Certificate of Merit” for completing the first book in the series, he’d signed his name as my teacher (as well as doodled all over it).
I went to Google.
Turns out, our assumption that he’d make it as a musician weren’t far off. You can hear Misha Piatigorsky in a few different clubs in New York, listen to his stuff on Rhapsody, or buy his music. But Google isn’t the theme of the post. Google let me know he really did still exist, and that he’d been successful.
The power of Facebook is in connecting people.
So thanks, Facebook, for allowing me to say thank you, 15 (or so) years later, to the guy whose fault it probably is that I’m still hanging on to the music.
Or at least, I can blame him for getting me started.