Music, Music, Music

Yesterday’s concert at the Church of the Epiphany was a piano soloist devoting the noon hour to Haydn, whose 200th jahrzeit is being noted this year. She started with a Haydn concerto, followed by a series of Mozart variations. I was disappointed with both, not necessarily because of the technique of the soloist (although I asked myself the question), but because I thought that the Steinway concert grand and the church’s acoustics did not permit the music to be as light as it needed to be. It sounded too ponderous. Then came a tribute to Haydn written 100 years ago by Debussy, a short piece which I enjoyed immensely.

The last piece on the hour long program was Beethoven’s First Piano Sonata, which he had dedicated to Haydn. During the first movement, something happened that I had never experienced before. After playing for 3 or 4 minutes, the pianist stopped, stood up, smiled to the audience and said something like “I have to get something”, leaving the stage. In less than a minute, she returned with the sheet music, which she opened up on the piano, and she started the piece anew. How often she looked at the music, I am not sure. In fact, I thought the Beethoven was the highlight of her concert. It was just a bit weird.

And it got me thinking about my piano lessons, so long ago, at the St. Louis Institute of Music, in Clayton. I think I started when I was in 3rd or 4th grade.

SLIM occupied a very large, old brick building that sat upon a lot that encompassed an entire square block. I think there were three floors plus a basement. Whether it was originally built as a school, or an insane asylum, I never knew; it could have easily been either. The basement was used to print music; it was the home of the Art Publication Society of St. Louis, which was somehow affiliated with SLIM. I do not believe that either is in business anymore; the building has long been torn down.

BUT, there is a website!!, according to my Google friends, and if you go there, you get a “coming soon” page. Whether it has been “coming soon” for a week, or for a decade, I don’t know. But at least there is proof (sort of) of its existence, that SLIM was not a product of my imagination.

Let me proceed…..My first piano teacher was named Arthurleigh Bartzen. That was something, because I was of course an Arthur, but he was an Arthurleigh! I had never heard of anyone with that name (and haven’t since). I remember he came from San Angelo, TX, which also surprised me, because he certainly did not look like he ever could have been a cowboy.

Now comes the weirder part: When you go on the slimites web site, there is a directory of people who have been connected with SLIM, with their addresses and phone numbers. I think you can get on simply by emailing at a site. AND Arthurleigh Bartzen (and his wife Shirley, who I am sure did not exist back then – we are talking 55 years or so ago) are listed, with an address and a phone number!!! How weird is that?

When you took piano lessons at SLIM, you also had to take a separate music theory class. Which I hated. So you went twice a week. I had a number of different theory teachers over the years I was there. I don’t remember most of their names, although I can picture one (tall, red haired, who when she played the piano swayed like a palm tree in a hurricane, and told us that playing the piano was a great way to loose weight) whose name I would like to recall. The one theory teacher that I do remember had a double last name, the first I had ever seen: Kara Georgieff.

Now when I google Kara Georgieff, I come up with a doctor Michael Kara Georgieff in St. Paul, MN. But when you look at his bio, you see that he went to Washington U. Medical School in St. Louis. So, was his mother my theory teacher? Perhaps.

And, if you go to the website of the Music Teachers National Association, you see that there is a member named Katja Georgieff, and that she lives in St. Louis. Is she related to Michael? Is her real name Katja Kara Georgieff?

One more point: the old Serbian royal family was the House of Karageorgevic. I learned that a long time ago, and always assumed that my theory teacher (long dark hair, mysterious accent) should have been the Queen of Yugoslavia.

So, as you see, my questions go on………….


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