I didn't get far as a piano student. My first teacher, Miss Finch, was kind enough to let me dismiss myself with prejudice, a relief to both of us.
After aging a few years, I made a better student, but not a successful one.
Every small town had at least one music teacher, and it was expected that kids would be exposed to something musical.
The popularity of local music is evident in the number of surviving bandstands in city parks.
These artifacts are rarely used today, but in another time there was a community band, farmer’s band or an informal group who owned instruments and met to play.
Holidays included a parade and community picnic in the park with background music by the local volunteer group in the bandstand.
Before television invaded our lives and calendars someone planned and presented “entertainments,” often in the local school auditorium.
People sang, someone quoted a poem, a “reading” (not to be confused with fortune telling), a bow-legged gal in a short dress tap dancing, and a rhythm band of kazoos, triangles, sticks and tambourines for people who had no talent.
By today’s standard of slick professional performances an evening of this was amateurish and hokey, but it filled an evening in which people had nothing better to do and gave them something to talk about.
Sometimes even wags in small towns run out of gossip.
Schools have nearly gotten out of the music business. Music education is limited to the marching band.
A retired educator told me that he quit because it was impossible to develop a program that would please everybody. No matter what he selected there were vocal dissenters who favored one sort of music over another.
There are so few piano students coming along that some churches have a hard time finding someone to sit in at the piano or organ.
The only place where children are exposed to music with an opportunity to perform is in church music programs. Many performers over the last few decades started in church music programs.
An indication of the numbers of pianists is the sale of pianos.
Sales of pianos since 1970 show an 83 percent decline in upright piano sales according to the “Blue Book of Pianos.” The last year for which figures are available is 2007 (31,681).
The largest sale of upright pianos was 209,100 in 1965.
According to the National Piano Foundation, the fastest growing group of aspiring pianists is in the 25-55 age group.
They say the prime reasons adults give for picking up the piano is for “fun and personal satisfaction.”
There are still piano teachers, something like 50,000 nationwide.
It looks like plan for retirees and a recital would give us something to do on a slow TV night.
Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at email@example.com.