Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chopsticks: The Story of Phoebe Faith & an Unconventional Piano Lesson

Every week Phoebe Faith went to her regular piano lesson at Mrs. Acapella Clef’s mansion. “Chop, chop!” Mrs. Clef said to Phoebe as she took her seat at her teacher’s grand piano. “Let me hear how ‘Chopsticks’ is coming along! You should have memorized it by now.”

During most lessons, Mrs. Clef paid no attention at all to Phoebe’s piano skills. Instead, she watered her plants and talked on the phone while Phoebe struggled to change keys. Sometimes, Mrs. Clef’s dog, Motif, needed fed or brushed or let outside in the back yard.

Phoebe, age 11, memorized “Chopsticks” months ago, but Mrs. Clef never acknowledged this triumph. When Mrs. Clef said, “Chop, chop,” Phoebe imagined cutting carrots in her mother’s kitchen. She even thought of eating Chinese food at the local market with long utensils.

If Mrs. Clef soon did not pay attention to Phoebe’s talent, Phoebe would quit her lessons.

Next week was the annual piano recital, and Phoebe would make her presence known. When the big day arrived, she stomped on stage with chopsticks and a plate of chicken fried rice.

“I’m playing ‘Chopsticks,’” Phoebe said, as she ate the Chinese dish with her long bamboo sticks. 

“Phoebe, what are you doing?” Mrs. Clef said as she batted her eyelashes at the eager audience. 

“Oh, you want me to play the piano?” Phoebe said. “Good, I’m glad you are finally listening.” Phoebe set her meal aside and said, “I will perform ‘The Celebrated Chop Waltz’ like Wolfgang Mozart.” She sat down at the piano and her fingers blazed across the black and white keys. 

As Mrs. Clef looked shocked and embarrassed, the audience rose to its feet and cheered Phoebe’s success. Mrs. Clef never again asked Phoebe to play “Chopsticks,” also known as “The Celebrated Chop Waltz.” Instead, Phoebe composed her own songs, and Mrs. Clef paid attention to every last note. 


Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters

Dedicated to piano teacher Ann Layser.

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